BELFAST – Waldo County has been awarded a $160,000 federal grant aimed at improving emergency radio transmissions across the county.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency distributed the money under the direction of the federal Department of Homeland Security. It will be used to install digital microwave signaling equipment on existing radio towers in Searsport and Northport.
“We’ve had some dead spots and this will give us full coverage for fire and EMS
Owen Smith, director of the Waldo County Communications Center, said that once installed the 24-channel digital system will also enable the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department and Belfast Police Department to improve their sending and receiving capabilities.
“It’s certainly good news,” Smith said of the grant.
Smith said the grant was unexpected because the county had filed its application a month later than the required deadline. He credited county grant writer Cheryl Coats with putting forward a strong enough argument for the grant to overcome the missed deadline.
“This was the one we thought we would have lost because we filed late. We were concerned that we weren’t going to get any money at all,” Smith said.
The county’s EMA department is in transition, and the grant application apparently fell through the cracks. The department has been under the direction of a temporary manager, former county Commissioner Jethro Pease, and the county is interviewing candidates to replace Director Rick Ferris, who resigned two months ago.
When reached Monday, Coats said that the grant was prepared by her and her son Jason’s firm, D.I.G. Specialty Services, under a contract with the county. Armed with technical information provided by Smith, the Coatses prepared a grant application that emphasized the county’s need to eliminate the dead areas in its emergency transmission grid.
“It was accepted because we had enough points in other areas to offset being late,” Coats said.