Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) says New York State Governor George Pataki’s inaction may cost local first responders hundreds of thousands in federal fire grant funding. Today Congressman Higgins sent a letter to US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in an attempt to save that money for local fire departments and the communities they serve.
"This incident is part of a regrettable pattern in which the Pataki administration fails to live up to its commitments to the people of Western New York,” said Congressman Higgins. “In this instance, the Governor’s inaction may cost local fire fighters hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for much needed communications equipment.”
Congressman Higgins’ announcement took place as hundreds of firefighters from across New York State gathered in Buffalo for their annual convention.
In 2003 New York State received $6 million from the Department of Homeland Security for the creation of a communication system backbone. To date that money remains unspent. Without the backbone seven local fire companies will not be able to use the interoperable 800 MHz equipment for which they applied. Now the Department of Homeland Security is threatening to permanently withdraw money set aside for these local fire companies because the state has not deployed the backbone for the new communications system.
Congressman Higgins is asking Secretary Chertoff for permission to allow the local fire companies to use their 2004 AFG funds for some other purpose other than interoperable communications equipment but still consistent with 2004 AFG priorities, or grant them further extensions until the State completes the 800 MHz interoperable communications backbone in Erie County.
On July 22, 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, also known as the 9-11 Commission, released its final report. One of the key findings in that report was the fact that the first responders who responded to the events of September 11, 2001 were unable to adequately communicate with each other due to the lack of an interoperable wireless emergency communications system. Seventeen months later, on December 5, 2005, the members of that commission issued a report card indicating that the goal of interoperable communications for first responders had still not yet been reached.