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7 radio towers to be featured in $10 million county system

Seven radio towers will be in place as part of Niagara County's new $10 million emergency radio system.

County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz and Sheriff's Chief Deputy Thomas C. Beatty said last week that the sites will include Upper Mountain Fire Company in Lewiston, Olcott Fire Company, Terry's Corners Fire Company in Royalton and Sweeney Hose Company in North Tonawanda.

Other sites will be atop Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center; beside the City of Lockport composting plant; and at the Mount View campus off Upper Mountain Road in Lockport, a county-owned property.

Beatty said the Mount View and Niagara Falls Memorial sites already feature county radio towers. The other sites are new.

But before any construction can begin, the county needs approval of its state-mandated environmental assessment form.

The County Legislature last week agreed to assume "lead agency" status for the environmental review.

"We just established where the sites are for this review. It just got solidified within the last two to four weeks," Glatz said.

He said some of the hosts are being paid small sums for the use of their property, while others are allowing free use.

Once the environmental red tape is cleared away, Beatty said, it won't take long to put up the prefabricated antennas.

"Towers are basically erector sets," Beatty said.

Each tower will be about 180 feet high except for the one at the Lockport composting plant, tucked beneath the Niagara Escarpment. That one will stand 250 to 280 feet, Beatty said.

The compost plant site was chosen after Mayor Michael W. Tucker and the Lockport Common Council rejected a proposal to build the tower next to the Outwater Park water tank.

Sheriff James R. Voutour said, "There was a lot of thought process given to the City of Lockport."

Voutour thinks the Sheriff's Office should handle all dispatching in the county, but Lockport and Niagara Falls have long resisted the notion. North Tonawanda police dispatching duties are being transferred to Sheriff's Office as of July 1.

Niagara Falls included a new dispatch center with its new public safety building. "They're going to stick with it because they've invested a lot of money in it," the sheriff said.

Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said that although the county proposes giving Lockport $425,000 worth of radios, the city would have to pay to replace them when they wear out in three to five years. Each radio costs $4,100.

The county's new dual-band radios send and receive on the very high frequency, or VHF, band the city and county now use, as well as the ultra-high frequency, or UHF, band that goes with the new system.

The county used a Federal Communications Commission "narrowbanding" mandate that emergency radios must take up less space on the broadcast spectrum as a reason to upgrade its system.

Eggert said he has a $21,900 quote for narrowbanding Lockport's police system. Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite said fire radios could be in compliance for $3,500.