The Wading River Fire District got a big boost Tuesday, earning a $200,000 grant from Senator Ken LaValle to help improve their communication systems as the district drafts a bond for building and radio upgrades.
The grant will be used to replace the radio tower station at the district’s second firehouse on Hulse Landing Road. The tower was installed in the early 1980s, according to District Commissioner Glenn Erick.
“We’re very excited to receive this grant,” said Chief Kevin Mcqueeney. “Anything that comes with communications comes with a large price tag and this money is definitely going to be helpful to us communicating throughout the fire district.”
The fire district said it needs to upgrade it’s communication devices to make sure firefighters will be able to stay in contact with other departments in Suffolk County.
New equipment purchased with the grant money will also bring the district up to “P25” standard, meaning they’ll be able to communicate with federal, state and local public safety agencies as well as mutual aid response teams during emergencies, said commissioner Michael Harrigan.
In the application for the grant, Mr. Harrigan said that the district currently relies on an “antiquated radio system on the low band frequencies.”
This system has at times become unreliable during bad weather and has only gotten worse with more development in town over the years. The Shoreham-Wading River High School, Defense Hill and Little Flower are all areas that have signal difficulty, Mr. Erick said.
So the district is looking into sharing the new radio towers with Riverhead Police Department to help improve their portable radio signals as well.
“They’re stuck in the same boat we are,” Mr. Harrigan said. “If we can provide safety, it’s all about public safety. Police are just as important in how we respond.”
But the grant will only cover part of the necessary changes. The district is looking to upgrade its ultra high frequency radio equipment, the radio tower at headquarters on North Country Road, a mobile data computer and radio systems in the department’s 14 trucks and four chiefs’ cars, Mr. Harrigan said.
The whole project’s total cost is $735,000.
The remaining $535,000 will be included in a bond the district is putting together with H2M Architects and Engineers. The bond proposal will include plans to renovate the fire stations, especially the one on Hulse Landing Road. Mr. Erick said the preliminary bond proposal will hopefully be ready for review in 2016.
Although the bond is not yet completed, Mr. Harrigan said the grant money will be used immediately to replace the tower.
Photo Caption: Wading River Fire District Commissioners Glenn Erick and Michael Harrigan, Senator Kenneth LaValle, Chief Kevin Mcqueeney and Chief Anthony Bitalvo.