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Federal money aims at regional radio networks
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Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue recently announced Liberty County, as part of a regional radio network, will share in $20 million in Public Safety Interoperable Communications grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency requested the PSIC grants, which are to help public safety agencies get and use communications systems for emergency responders, in December.
"These (funds) will assist our state's first responders during critical moments when communications are essential to protecting the citizens of Georgia," Perdue said. "The PSIC grants will increase our ability to communicate effectively and save lives across the state."
Grants were awarded to agencies in five counties, including the Chatham, which received a $7.7 million grant to enhance the six-county Southeast Georgia Regional Radio Network, of which Liberty County is a partner.
According to Liberty County Director of Public Safety Communications Tom Wahl, the county joined the SEGRRN to offset the costs of upgrading its communications equipment to meet new Federal Communications Commission mandates.
"SEGRRN's function is to, on a regional level, seek funding to purchase and deploy a regional interoperable public safety communications network...It made sense both financially and operationally to participate in this regional approach to emergency communications," he said. "The network is state of the art and the impact on city and county coffers is minimized."
Wahl said the plan is to meet the latest FCC regulations by converting the county's current VHF radio system to "a digital 700 MHz trunked radio network meeting APCO Project 25 standards for public safety digital radio."
Once the improvements are completed, he said, area first responders should be able to communicate throughout the region.
"In an event the magnitude of the sugar refinery disaster, emergency personnel responding from outside agencies will be able to communicate directly with the responders from the local jurisdiction," Wahl said.
He said a complete overhaul of the current system is years down the road and the new funding, which has not been allocated to each separate county yet, is just a start to cover the costs of infrastructure.
But Wahl said residents should be assured that "early projections are that as much as 75 percent or more of the project's cost may be funded by grants and appropriations."
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