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Joining of wireless network is considered

The Town Board is considering whether to join the Statewide Wireless Network to give the police force the ability to communicate with the rest of the state's police and fire agencies during emergencies.

Police Chief H. James Suitor, although he did not mention the potential cost, said the town could receive funding through the state Office of Wireless Technology.

The Statewide Wireless Network is the way to go, Suitor said, because it can interact with any system.

For instance, if the City Council in Niagara Falls does not agree to join the network, Suitor and his officers could still use the Statewide Wireless Network to call Niagara Falls police officers on their portable radios.

Suitor said that with the new technology, his officers could speak with any other police or fire agency in the state.

The Statewide Wireless Network is a new radio system that, when completed in 2010, would enable all state agencies to communicate with one another by voice and data without having to worry about whether their radios are compatible. A demand for such "interoperability" among agencies resulted from analysis of the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Lockport Police Chief Neil B. Merritt said last November, "We are the first state in the nation to [offer statewide wireless], and the state is spending $2 billion. Erie and Chautauqua counties will be putting up towers, but Niagara County has not signed on."

Police chiefs from cities and towns across the county have asked County Manager Gregory D. Lewis and Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein to invest in a statewide wireless system of communications. Both of them said they are not comfortable jumping into an untested wireless system.

Erie and Chautauqua counties are the first test counties for the new system, Beilein said. "Let's learn from them."

The $40 million system, encompassing both Erie and Chautauqua counties, signaled the beginning of a statewide upgrade that will cost $2 billion. The counties signed the agreement in late 2005.

Town Police Commissioner Wallace Blake Jr. said Thursday he was in favor of going with the new system. "Things change so quickly," he said. "That's one of the benefits of going with the [Statewide Wireless Network]."

Town Supervisor Steven C. Richards said, "I thought it was a good idea."

New Councilman Robert A. Clark volunteered to work with Suitor to bring more information about the system to the Town Board.

The work session was limited to department heads.

In another matter, Town Engineer Robert P. Lannon Jr. showed the Town Board pictures of how town crews cleaned debris from Cayuga Creek to alleviate some of the flooding problems Nov. 16.

Richards said that after Suitor arranged for a helicopter to come in recently from the State Police barracks in Batavia, with Suitor taking photos of the flooding along the creek banks here, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Lannon that it was fine to have town representatives clear the creek.

In 1996, the creek overflowed, and residents from an adjoining mobile home community were displaced.

Lannon said he found a small stone walkway built across the creek, which crews removed and thus lowered the water in the creek by 2 or 3 feet.

Richards said the next step in alleviating further problems will be to hire outside crews to clean the creek and to figure out what areas workers can access without disturbing residents' backyards.


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