By Kathryn G. Menu
The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees approved a resolution last week that will allow the village to bond for almost half a million dollars in order to replace emergency services radio equipment for the ambulance, fire and police departments as a part of a $6.55 million upgrade to East Hampton Town’s communication system.
During its November 14 meeting, the board unanimously approved the resolution, which will allow it to replace the equipment at a cost not to exceed $600,000, with $125,000 coming out of the village’s Emergency Management Reserve Fund, and a maximum of $475,000 in bonds to cover the remaining cost. On Monday, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire said the estimated cost would come in “somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000,” and would also include radio equipment for public safety officers like Harbormaster Bob Bori.
“This is hugely critical,” said Mr. McGuire. “The Town of East Hampton owns the infrastructure for our radio communication system and the current system is 20 years old and will reach the end of its life by the end of 2018. They don’t even make the parts that would allow you to fix the four towers in Montauk, at the Amagansett Fire Department, at town hall and in Noyac that operate the system.”
The radios currently used by emergency service providers would not be compatible with the new system, which is why they need to be replaced, said Chief McGuire, who added the upgrade will also improve communication between emergency service and public safety officers in East Hampton and Southampton towns, who will be operating on similar systems.
“Chief McGuire is correct — this will go a long way toward ensuring all East End agencies can communicate with each other, whether on mutual aid during a fire or as police departments handling a major incident or assisting each other on a call,” said East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo via email on Monday.
“We plan on having the system on-air and optimized mid-summer of 2018, with a full roll over in the fall of 2018,” he said. “New radios will be programmed and delivered to users through the fall. Hopefully we will be able to take the old system offline by December 2018.”
According to Chief Sarlo, it will take roughly four months to program the over 1,000 radios that will be used by various agencies connected to the town’s communication system. “Our communication systems technician, Eddie Schnell, has been working with all of the fire districts as well as the Sag Harbor and East Hampton Village police departments to ensure all purchases are complete and he is ready to keep the project moving.”
The upgrade will also expand the number of channels emergency crews can use to communicate with each other. With just five channels in the current system, during the fire on Sag Harbor Main Street on December 16, 2016 when fire departments from across the region responded, an estimated 143 calls through the town’s emergency radio communication system were dropped.
“The ability for all first responders to have clear communication is essential to their safety, as well as to improve the coordination of services throughout the community,” said Chief Sarlo.