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Oneida Co. Sheriff's Office requests $3.5 million for emergency communication upgradesSubmitted: 09/16/2019
Story By Stephen Goin

Oneida Co. Sheriff's Office requests $3.5 million for emergency communication upgrades
ONEIDA COUNTY - A handful of radio towers went up in Oneida Co. just over ten years ago to improve emergency communications across the Northwoods. The sheriff's office is now requesting $3.5 million in capital improvement funds to update those systems.

Emergency management says the county's E911 center needs a sixth dispatch station among a laundry list of other "necessary" changes.

"There's more cell phones nowadays, people have more access to call 911," said Lt. Sherri Congleton with the Oneida Co. Sheriff's Office.

Ken Kortenhof with Oneida Co. Emergency Management said an additional station will help dispatchers respond when call volume escalates in disaster situations.

"It's all tied in together, the phones make the radio work and radio makes the phone work," said Kortenhof. "This is equipment that's going to expire again in ten, twelve years just like it did to us this time. We knew it was coming, we planned for it and the day is here."  

In addition to dispatch changes, they county wants to replace its ten-year-old call processing equipment, which runs on the now unsupported Windows XP software.

"We're really doing a patch job of putting it together and keep it working," said Kortenhof.

The county's outdated two-way radio system would also need to be replaced because it often fails, connecting dispatchers and first responders with weak signals.

"It's very frustrating when they're in a high level situation trying to help somebody or save someone's life and they're trying to talk back to dispatch," said Congleton.

Kortenhof says antennae on the county's eight emergency radio towers may also need improvement. Ultimately, he believes these changes will save money and lives in the long run.

"If you ever need to call 911 this is where you're calling. This is the equipment we need to get the help that you need to you," said Kortenhof.

Emergency communications upgrades are one of the top priorities for Oneida Co.'s capital improvements projects subcommittee for 2020.

Other important projects in need of funding include highway reconstruction and county computer hardware upgrades.

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