Fire Chiefs propose County-wide radio solution

Image of Shawna O'Neill
By Shawna O'Neill
Fire Chiefs propose County-wide radio solution
From left, Mike St-Onge, SDG Counties IT Director, and South Glengarry Fire Chief Dave Robertson during the council meeting on Monday, April 15 (Shawna O'Neill/TC Media).

UNITED COUNTIES, Ontario – South Glengarry Fire Chief Dave Robertson and Mike St.Onge, SDG Counties IT Director, proposed investigating a cross-County radio and paging system for local fire departments, public works departments and transit during a United Counties Council meeting on Monday, April 15.

“We have a few municipalities in very imminent need for replacement of  (radio communication) equipment. The equipment is very old and there have been a lot of patches made to keep it in the condition it is at today,” said Chief Robertson. “In discussions among ourselves at the County Chiefs Committee…we reviewed some things to say that there are probably significant advantages for us to go forward and at least investigate a unified system and technology.”

During the presentation, South Dundas Fire Chief Cameron Morehouse, South Stormont Fire Chief Gilles Crepeau and North Stormont Fire Chief Dan Gauvin sat in the gallery showing their support of the proposal.

According to a report to council, some systems have significant issues, with numerous records of service blackouts consequently hampering the ability to communicate and respond to incidents. The report reinforced that regardless of the stability of current systems, each system is at risk of failure as replacement parts may largely be unavailable for the type of technology utilized.

“The six local municipalities within SDG each operate their own radio communications and paging networks. Each municipality operates in a silo with little sharing or infrastructure, equipment or maintenance agreements. The individual systems have a few similarities regarding equipment but share the common issue of age and serviceability,” read a statement in the report.

The radio communication systems in question consist of a network, including towers and links, and user gear, including base radios, in-vehicle radios, portable radios and pagers.

“No municipalities have projects in the books to update infrastructure at this time. North Glengarry is just in the early stages of implementing (upgrades) in 2019,” said Chief Robertson, eluding to North Glengarry Fire Services upgrading their radio technology, which would compliment any cross-County changes.

A preliminary proposed solution would include a seven tower system with a main site located in Newington, sending signals to the other towers in the municipality. User equipment would depend on the needs of each individual municipality.

Although Council was open to the idea of a unified system, many wanted more specifics to the cost of the project and examples of its success in other neighbouring regions as no cost-benefit analysis was presented.

“I don’t think Council should make a decision today. I think it’s important we all know what the numbers are…” said South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis.

“I would like to see the financial numbers but I would also like to see lifespan…and what we can expect as far as qualms as the years go on with the technology,” said Deputy Mayor of South Dundas Kirsten Gardiner.

Mayor of North Dundas Tony Fraser also added that the issue may not be representative of every municipality.

The Chiefs Committee and individuals backing the proposal will attain specific numbers and report to council at a later date.

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