Albany County receives $6M emergency communications grant

ALBANY COUNTY — Albany County will receive $6 million in funding from New York State as part of a wider effort to improve emergency communication, particularly as it relates to regional connections, or interoperability. 

Interoperability is what allows different agencies to communicate and exchange information with one another, according to the United States Department of Homeland Security, and is a critical aspect of emergency management given the amount of coordination required between different units during any given crisis response. 

New York State announced that it would distribute more than $62 million to 14 counties, with the maximum award per county being $6 million. Eligible counties were those that “have insufficient coverage or infrastructure on national interoperability channels or to improve shared systems,” according to a press release. 

Albany County spokeswoman Mary Rozak told The Enterprise that information about what the county would do with its share of the funds would have to be obtained from the sheriff’s office, which did not respond to repeated inquiries.

Five years ago, three new towers were built — in Coeymans, Berne, and Rensselaerville — in south and southwestern Albany County, which Sheriff Craig Apple said were needed to both remove local dead zones — a long-standing problem in the Hilltowns — and to complete a countywide ring of towers to supply high-quality reliable interoperable communication to law- enforcement agencies and other public entities throughout the county.

Existing towers in the rest of the county — the “Metro” portion of the digital “trunked” 800 Mhz radio communication system which costs $19.3 million — were upgraded before 2017 to higher standards of performance and reliability.

The building of towers in Berne, atop U’Hai Mountain, and in Rensselaerville, on top of Edwards Hill, had been controversial. Scenic Rensselaerville, a group of about 170, many of them artists, had sued the sheriff and the town’s planning board for permitting the tower but ultimately decided not to appeal a decision in Albany County State Supreme Court that rejected the group’s petition.

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