Funding for a new communication system for local first responders is now in place.
 
On Tuesday, in a 6-1 vote, Erie County Council approved $26.5 million in funding for the "next generation" radio system for first responders.
Under the plan, a total of $19.4 million will come from a capital improvement bond, which the county will pay for over the next 15 years.  The remaining $7.1 million will come from county reserves.

"It's a system that is broken,” said Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper.  “We're going to have a new system, a system where our first responders can go out (and) help us when we're in need and know that their lives are going to be much safer."

The new system will allow first responders to broadcast on the same frequency.  Right now, they operate on different channels, which many firefighters say is dangerous.

“On one hand, this is a big bullet to bite,” said Albion Volunteer Fire Department Chief Scott Hyde.  “But you know, what's the cost of a firefighter getting trapped inside a building or a loved one in a house?"

According to Erie County Councilman Andre Horton, who voted against the bond financing, the project is too expensive.

"I think that the radio system does need to be updated,” said Horton.  “But I think at this time, with all of the other social problems that we have, I think the $26 million is an exorbitant amount of money to pay for a system that will probably be obsolete before we even complete it."

Council members who voted in favor of the bond say it's a matter of public safety.

"They should be able to communicate properly with each other and at the present time, they're not able to because of the different radio systems that they have and that I believe creates a problem,” said Erie County Council Chairman Fiore Leone.  “At some point and time, someone is going to get hurt badly because of that."