Counties axe proposed joint radio network project

Above: Councillor Steven Byvelds advocates for the SDG joint radio network during the November 18th SDG County Council meeting. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

SDG – While originally pitched as a collaborative plan between SD&G and the six lower-tier municipalities, County Council voted November 18th to not proceed with a $2 million joint-radio communications project.

Discussions began back in January 2019 about a plan to refit a county-owned communications tower for a new radio system for SDG roads crews and public works.

That plan, in discussion with the fire chiefs of the six municipal fire services, identified the potential for fire and emergency services to run on the same system.

SDG Counties IT director Mike St. Onge said there was a benefit to investing in common radio and paging infrastructure throughout the counties.

The initial planning for the project identified dead zones for equipment coverage, and the current and future needs of the six fire services.

But the plan could not find enough support around the council table.

“I appreciate the report that outlines some of the struggles and challenges we have, but we are looking at a lot of money being asked for at the Counties level,” said councillor Tony Fraser.

Fraser said that North Dundas had needed upgrades to its fire department communications equipment and worked with a telephone company and the dispatch services provider to get a system that worked for them.

“We spent a fraction of what the consultants said,” Fraser said.

“North Glengarry is in the process of upgrading equipment as we speak,” said councillor Carma Williams. “Talking to our fire chief and the Warden, we don’t see a need to invest in this project.”

“This is an opportunity for us to work together and save money,” councillor Steven Byvelds said.

He went on to say that if County Council said no, then South Dundas council will investigate what is needed in that municipality.

According to St. Onge’s report to council, both tower and radio infrastructure are listed as a future need.

“We need to make sure that our firefighters have the communications equipment they need to do the job they need to do,” Byvelds said.

“I understand that money is money. If County Council can’t unify on this issue on its own, then we kill the project and go on our own separate little ways again.”

Council voted in a split decision, five votes for, six votes against, continuing the joint radio project.

After the meeting, Byvelds said he was frustrated with the outcome of the joint radio project.

“You look at our strategic meeting it was about working together on big projects,” Byvelds said. “This is not working together.”

He added that he was worried that other large county projects, like the upcoming discussion of a SDG waste management plan, would see a similar fate.

With the radio project quashed at the county level, Byvelds said South Dundas will start moving forward on its own project, beginning at the November 18th municipal council meeting.

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