County receives $1.2M to improve emergency communication systems

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

The cell tower in Berne, built as one of a series for emergency communication at the instigation of Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.

ALBANY COUNTY — Albany County has been awarded $1,200,054 through the Statewide Interoperable Grant program to improve emergency communications systems. 

County spokeswoman Mary Rozak told The Enterprise that information for how the money will be spent would have to come from the sheriff’s office, which did not respond to Enterprise inquiry. 

The Statewide Interoperable Grant program has provided $472 million to municipalities since late 2011, and is funded by cellular surcharge revenue, according to a state webpage for the program. 

“Eligible counties can use the funding for various functions,” the page states, “including enhancing emergency response for county, local and municipal public safety organizations, improving capability, improvements in governance structures, operating procedures, infrastructure development, and addressing SAFECOM guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Communications.”

Sheriff Craig Apple has been pushing for more cell towers and better communication infrastructure in the county, particularly in the rural Hilltowns. He was behind the cell tower that was erected atop U’Hai Mountain, in Berne, which was controversial among some residents because of its visibility, but lauded by first responders. He also had a tower placed in Rensselaerville on top of Edwards Hill, which split the community along similar lines.

Both those towers have become hosts to commercial cellular companies.

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