Federal funds will help improve emergency communication system

A financial blessing to the tune of nearly $85,000 of federal funds will give the City of Brady, McCulloch County and the City of Melvin a chance to upgrade their radio communications capabilities. Under a program developed by the Homeland Securities Act, $1.2 million in federal funds was distributed to the Concho Valley Council of Governments (CVCOG) to help develop inter-operability radio communications’or the ability of police, fire and rescue departments to communicate via common radio frequencies with other agencies throughout the state in the event of an emergency. Project 25 is the functional and technical standard for public-safety digital two-way radios adopted in 1995 by a consortium of two-way radio user groups to ensure direct communications among various public-safety organizations. In order to ensure that new digital public safety radios would be inter-operable, or allow various public-safety agencies to communicate with each other without having to rely on cumbersome, time-consuming procedures used today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that radios operating within the new 700 MHz range be Project 25 compliant. The funds allocated in this most recent windfall must be used by the receiver in a manner that falls within the parameters set by the Homeland Securities Act toward improving communication abilities. “The news and awarding of these funds was all very sudden,” said Randy Young, a voting member and secretary of the CVCOG. “The federal government allocated the funds and gave the COG authority to distribute half of the total amount as they saw fit. What the COG did was review what the Feds distributed and essentially mirrored their recommendation.” The federal funds allocated to McCulloch County include $17,513 to the City of Brady, $7,373 to the City of Melvin and $22,477 to McCulloch County. Each of those totals was matched by the COG disbursement to total $35,026, $14,746 and $44,954 respectively. To be eligible for the funds, each entity must have met three criteria: they must have an emergency management plan by the end of this funding year, they must have the appropriate mutual aid agreements and the designated assessment and survey must have been completed and submitted to the state. “What we are hoping for is that the three different entities within McCulloch County will combine their efforts to use the funds for a common goal,” said Young. “Each may do what they wish with their allotment in respect to complying with the Homeland Securities Act, but we hope we can all pool our resources for the greatest cause, specifically the potential replacement of the old radio tower located near G. Rollie White.” According to Young, the law enforcement and rescue departments in McCulloch County already work in the manner in which many urban areas are moving toward. Many large departments are purchasing “black box” technology to allow for communication on appropriate channels. “For us to purchase that type of equipment would actually be a step backwards,” said Young. “Right now, the tower is a pressing issue and we will be looking into our options in the coming months.” Brady City Manager Merle Taylor stated that the City has not made any plans on how to spend the allocated money other than it would be done in a way to improve the communications within the county. “Once we actually have confirmation of the funds, we will have some meetings and begin discussing our options,” said Taylor. “Once we decide, we will submit our plan to the regional advisory committee in San Angelo to ensure our reimbursement.”

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