Madison will spend $ 1.5 million in federal funding on the emergency radio system | Madison Eagle information
MADISON – The district plans to spend the majority of its federal COVID-19 aid money on a new radio system for various city departments and first aid agencies.
The district is said to be receiving approximately $ 1.85 million through the federal aid package under the American Rescue Plan Act. The council unanimously voted at a meeting on Monday, July 26th, to allocate $ 1.5 million of these funds to launch a new “bundled” radio system through which all county departments and possibly schools communicate with each other in an emergency be able.
Chief Financial Officer Jim Burnet said the district administrators and department heads are keen to implement the radio system, which “would help all Madisonians, make us safer, and protect and better serve all employees currently on various radio systems.”
Burnet said the city’s departments from fire brigade to electric utility are currently operating on various belts in a nearly 30-year-old system that fire chief Lou DeRosa said has reached the end of its useful life.
Burnet said the proposed new network “puts everyone in a system where they can have talk groups and talk to each other in an emergency. I can tell you that during Superstorm Sandy and other emergencies it is very difficult here if you cannot communicate properly in such situations. “
Burnet said the federal funding would allow the district to advance a much-needed project amid unprecedented revenue shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The community’s revenue fell by more than $ 1 million in 2020, and the situation has barely improved that year.
While Madison grossed approximately $ 654,000 between court fees, parking fees, and interest on its bank balances in 2019, those revenue streams have been just $ 67,000 so far this year, according to Burnet.
“We certainly assume that in 2021 only these three items will be short of half a million dollars in sales compared to 2019,” he said. “So finances are not improving as quickly as we had hoped.”
Burnet said less urgent investment projects like certain road and infrastructure repairs planned for 2022 and 2023 will be scaled back or postponed due to the loss of revenue. However, the radio project could neither be scaled back nor delayed, he said.
Originally slated for 2023, the project is moving forward in part because the fire department’s radio equipment was damaged in a recent lightning strike on Midwood Terrace and a backup radio system used by the department was taken out of service.
DeRosa said the damage was irreparable and the system was too old to have the parts replaced. The fire department continues to operate on their primary radio system, but their “thumbs are crossed,” he said.
The new radio system would cost about $ 1.9 million, which means the district will have to make up the difference after allocating the $ 1.5 million from the American rescue plan.
The district is looking for additional sources of funding for the project and has requested a $ 330,000 grant from the Fire Fighters Assistance Program offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
DeRosa said FEMA has already started awarding grant applications, but Madison is “still in the running”.
“If we get this scholarship – hopefully we’ll know something by September or October of this year – we won’t need much to get to the finish line,” he said.
The fire chief emphasized that the trunked radio system would be used throughout the district, from the construction and supply departments to first aiders. He said the district could also offer to expand the service to schools.
The remaining $ 347,000 in American Rescue Plan funds could meanwhile be spent on downtown economic development or other programs set by Borough Council, Burnet said. Mayor Bob Conley and Councilor Debra Coen said economic development was high on their priority list of how the money should be spent.
The district expects to receive the first half of its federal allocation shortly, Burnet said, and retains the option to start the radio project sooner rather than later by pulling out existing funds from its capital budget and then replenishing those funds when it receives the federal money .