St. Lawrence gets dispatch funds after 2-year wait

Kelly S. Mayette, a dispatcher for St. Lawrence County Emergency Services, works at her station in 2016 at the county’s Public Safety Complex in Canton. Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — A more than two-year wait for a $6 million state grant for St. Lawrence County emergency services is over.

The county Board of Legislators’ Operations Committee last week unanimously passed a resolution authorizing board chair William J. Sheridan to sign a contract with the state and modify the 2021 budget to reflect a $6 million revenue increase from the 2018 Statewide Interoperable Communications Targeted Grant program for radio dispatch upgrades.

SICG-Targeted is part of a collection of interoperable communications grants administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. A total $65 million was available in the 2018 targeted round, separate from annual formula and operations grants for emergency communications systems.

Funds were paid out to seven of 12 awarded counties in 2018, but disbursement was delayed for the remaining five projects until earlier this year. Jefferson County previously received $4.1 million for connecting radio sites and adding multi-jurisdiction channels to its dispatch system.

St. Lawrence County was one of the five remaining counties to be awarded in February for upgrading all four key areas of its emergency communication system. More than 15 years old, the county’s system will receive site, connectivity, dispatch console and radio upgrades. Funds were also released to Chenango, Putnam, Ulster and Wyoming counties.

County legislators on Feb. 1 passed a resolution to submit a written request for disbursement to the governor’s office, the state budget director and the north country’s state representatives.

The county’s nine Republican and six Democratic legislators then signed a letter to the state’s Director of the Budget Robert F. Mujica, with signatures from Assemblymen Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown; D. Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh; Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River; Robert J. Smullen, R-Meco; Matthew J. Simpson, R-Horicon; and state Senators Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton; Daniel G. Stec, R-Queensbury; and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome.

“My sincere thanks to my colleagues in the state Legislature and every single St. Lawrence County legislator for working across the aisle for the good of the county,” Mr. Walczyk wrote in a statement following Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Feb. 11 disbursement announcement. “St. Lawrence County residents are the real winners here.”

In emergencies, Gov. Cuomo said in his announcement, “just a few seconds can make all the difference in the world.”

“The public safety of our communities relies on swift and seamless communication between local and state agencies, first responders and residents,” he said. “That’s why we’re bringing the state’s emergency response infrastructure into the 21st century and arming localities with the tools necessary to respond quickly and protect New Yorkers in times of crisis.”

A portion of St. Lawrence County’s grant will support renovations to the central Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP, in Canton, and the majority will fund the radio system overhaul and restore distorted signals between dispatchers and responders.

The grant contract has been established from March 1, 2021, through Feb. 28, 2025. The contract and budget modification resolution will again be presented to lawmakers for passage during the full board meeting on Monday.

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