ERIE, Pa. -- A $26.5 million public safety radio system that's been needed for more than 30 years is one step closer to being complete.
On Thursday, Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper was on hand to unveil the new equipment that completed Phase 1 of the Next Generation Public Safety Radio System.
Phase 1 includes two monitors, which are dispatch consoles, that went live about three weeks ago. Officials say it is already making a difference.
The $26.5 million project was approved in 2015, but John Grappy, director of Erie County Public Safety, said the need for a new system was identified in 1985 with the Albion Tornado.
"Not just the improved liability the system offers, but the improved audio quality that when the first responders are communicating with dispatch and we're communicating with first responders, that the audio quality is clear, it's concise and easy to communicate,” Grappy said.
Dahlkemper said with implementing the consoles early, it is saving the county $210,000 a year. Other phases of the project include the construction of up to eight towers and implementing other parts of the system. Those projects are being worked on currently.
"Hopefully the taxpayers will understand the importance of this because it's really about saving lives,” Dahlkemper said. “The lives of our first responders are obviously something we want to protect, and certainly the lives of all citizens and all visitors to Erie County."
They hope to have all parts of the Next Generation Systems in and begin testing by the end of the years. It is expected to go live in March 2018.