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Lewis County expects to seek radio system bids next month

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County officials this summer plan to start soliciting bids for their emergency radio system project to get a better handle on estimated costs by the fall.

Requests for proposals for two contracts — radio equipment and the microwave system — should be sent out by early August in hopes of getting “competitive pricing from vendors,” Robert N. Duclos from Syracuse engineering firm C&S Cos., the county’s radio consultant, said at a meeting Friday.

While only a couple of companies tend to bid on such radio system contracts, the specifications should be kept as “vendor-neutral” as possible to ensure no firms are precluded from submitting proposals, he said.

A comprehensive list of radio needs for the county — including law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, as well as possibly highway and school — must be compiled before bids may be sought, Mr. Duclos said.

Lewis County Fire Coordinator James M. Martin suggested the county could fund a couple of new radios for each fire department, with departments responsible for the cost of any additional radios they may wish to purchase.

County officials are proposing to move from a VHF emergency radio system to a higher-frequency UHF-based system, although pagers would remain VHF-based.

Legislator Jerry H. King, R-West Leyden, a past fire chief, suggested pager service in the county has gotten progressively worse with each generation of pagers.

The proposed addition of radio towers throughout the county should help to rectify that situation, consultants said.

County officials are eyeing a system that would include 10 or 11 towers — rather than the four now used — to vastly improve emergency coverage throughout the county.

Although there have been some discussions about reducing the number of towers to lower project costs, Mr. King said Friday he believes it is very important to stick with at least 10 towers.

“Without the towers, we’ll never have the system we want,” he said.

Other county leaders agreed.

Emergency officials from other counties have recommended not to “scrimp on infrastructure” when designing radio systems, Mr. Martin said.

A late 2011 study conducted on the county’s behalf indicated a new system would cost $6 million to $12 million, but that was estimated for a VHF-based system with eight towers.

Lewis County applied for state Homeland Security funding for the project last year but did not receive any.

However, Mr. Duclos has said completion of the frequency study and other recent legwork should make for a much stronger application this year.

The county was recently awarded $808,615 to upgrade its computer-aided dispatch system to make it compatible with Jefferson County’s system. Sheriff’s Department officials plan to solicit bids for that project soon.

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