Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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February 8th, 2013

Emergency Frequency Upgrade a Vital Necessity

Sullivan County might be notorious for wasting millions on projects that have gone nowhere such as construction of a new jail, but it is vitally important that one presently before the legislature be approved.

At hand is a move towards a common high band frequency connecting E911 to all emergency first responders, including fire departments, ambulance, and various law enforcement agencies. The project is estimated to cost approximately $10 million, but the potential to save lives clearly out ways any cost. The current system is over 30 years old and is worn out. Replacement parts are not even being made anymore.

Although Sullivan County has been researching this project since 2006, a decision must be reached immediately because an agreement with Motorola to obtain these frequencies and equipment expired on December 31, 2012.

If the legislature does not act and reach a new agreement with Motorola other counties will scoop up these frequencies. Delaware and Ulster have already said they desperately want them. It would be a travesty if that happens.

Last year Sullivan County was awarded a $1.2 million grant from NYS Homeland Security towards the cost of tower construction for the frequency upgrade. The remaining costs of $9.5 million would be bonded as old debt is retired so that there would not be an increase in the property tax levy.

Unfortunately, at a recent Public Safety meeting called by committee chairwoman Cora Edwards to discuss the urgency of the upgrade, legislators Kitty Vitter and Cindy Gieger appeared to be resistant.

Despite pleas from Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic and 911 Coordinator Alex Rau that it is needed to assist in saving lives during emergencies and disasters, Vetter did not seem to grasp the need to merge all emergency services into the same frequency bandwidth.

Vetter professed that she spoke with firefighters who insisted it was unnecessary because all agencies already respond to emergencies. A frustrated Gene Benson with his voice angered told Vetter, “If your house is on fire, do you want two or 50 firefighters there?”

Gieger for her part said she understood the need for the upgrade, but felt the cost was too expensive for taxpayers to bear. One has to wonder at what cost is it too much to potentially save a life?

As it stands now emergency dispatchers have to guess which tower to transmit in order to reach responders, under the new system an emergency would be relayed to every radio tower simultaneously reaching all responders.

Edwards told me there is a statewide lobbying effort to get the “911 surcharge tax” on cell phone bills to come back to each county to help pay for these type of upgrades. She urged residents to contact Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and State Senator John Bonacic to support these efforts.

Edwards said, “We all know how important it is to have adequate communication in emergency situations, especially after Storm Sandy left many people isolated and without the ability to make contact for days. Having this radio frequency upgrade for emergency first responders is one of the most important functions a government can provide our citizens.”

The 911 call center receives over 5,000 calls per month. The legislature must do the right thing and approve this upgrade.

1 comment to Emergency Frequency Upgrade a Vital Necessity

  • Russell Turner

    Well I guess Miss Vetters will not get re-elected. As a firemen in her voting district I am amazed on how she and others are nieve on this situation. I know first hand that even with a tower in my back yard there are still very bad communication areas in Neversink,Grahamsville, & Claryville by doing the upgrade Thunder Hill Tower will be 180ft tall instead of 100+ it is now. I really hope that she realizes that without the upgrades we are putting firemen in harms way!!!!!!!!