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Suffolk seeks $1M to fortify emergency radio towers

Suffolk County wants up to $1 million in federal aid to strengthen five communication towers used by police and emergency responders, officials said Monday.

Sen. Charles Schumer promised to push federal officials to approve the grants from money authorized by Congress after superstorm Sandy.

The radio communication towers "can be prone to failure in extreme weather," Schumer said at a news conference in front of a tower in Yaphank. "We saw both the importance and fragility of our first responder system during Sandy."

Schumer (D-N.Y.) and county officials said emergency agencies had some problems communicating during Sandy.

"We were fortunate that the towers didn't come down, that a major failure didn't occur," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. "Without question, we had problems occur that had to be responded to."

Strengthening the towers could cost $708,840 to about $1 million, county officials said. Suffolk would pay a quarter of the costs, with the federal government paying the rest, if the grant request is approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The towers in Hauppauge, Suffolk Hills, Coram Hill, Mt. Misery and Yaphank were built between 1980 and 1988.

The funds would come through the Federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, designed to help strengthen infrastructure against disasters.

The communication towers are used by many county, local, state and federal agencies, including the Secret Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, local municipalities and town police departments, the county said.

Nearby buildings at the base of the towers hold equipment that Bellone said needed to be upgraded. The towers now operate on propane generators if the power goes out. The propane lasts for only 24 hours, before it needs to be refilled. Newer generators can run for up to three days without refueling.

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