Millions in state grants awarded to Cortland County Emergency Response

The Cortland County Department of Emergency Response and Communications is set to receive about $5.25 million in grants from New York state. 

A committee of Cortland County legislators voted Thursday to receive the funds geared to help aid larger agencies fight domestic terrorism, beef up its infrastructure, and build out its proposed new center of operations.

The first grant, unanimously voted on by legislators at Thursday’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee meeting, awarded the department $21,478. The funds are used to pay for Deputy Director of Emergency Response and Communications Courtney Metcalf’s salary and the county has to match that amount every year, said County Emergency Response and Communications Director Scott Roman.

“This is actually Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 2021 money,”  “The state got it in 2022 and they awarded it in 2023. I only have a year and a half to spend (the money).”

Roman said the state’s funding for this grant keeps dwindling year after year.

“Last year we received about  $23,000,” he said. “This year, it’s $21,000. Eventually, it's not going to be worth it to match it.”

The second grant, which is around $51,215, is also awarded through New York State Homeland Security.

“Mostly this pays for the data connections for the mobile data terminals that we pay for the year cards on,” Roman said.  “But we also wrote for a cybersecurity component this year. So we expect a contract to come out of this at some point. This will probably either pay for some of the equipment or some switches or services that we provide at 22 W. Court St. So there’s potential for a contract to be a part of it.”

The next grant, worth around $172,000 is part of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s action to combat domestic terrorism, following the shooting at a Top’s store in Buffalo last year.

“So this one is actually predominantly for the sheriff’s office; we don't have a lot involved in this,” Roman said. “ The state put $10 million out for municipalities and every county got $172,000 and change. We had to write a 20-page domestic terrorism plan and we submitted it to the state.”

The grant will predominantly cover “training, exercises and anything related to preventing domestic terrorism,” Roman said.

“They told emergency management to do all the work even though the sheriff's gonna end up with most of the money,” he noted.

Legislators also voted unanimously to accept the $5 million grant from New York’s Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant (SICG) program. 

The program, administered by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (NYSDHSES), provides funding to enhance public safety through improving and modernizing infrastructure, addressing communications deficiencies, implementing national interoperability channels, and boosting regional connectivity between counties and systems.

At least $1.5 million of that grant, applied for by the county’s director of emergency response and communications, would go toward the new 911 Center’s network’s connections and connections to contiguous counties. The center will be nestled at 22 W. Court St. and is set to be completed sometime this year

Another $2.5 million would go toward improving the county’s radio systems. Lastly, $1 million would be used to improve the connection of the county’s local radio system to the Central New York radio system core.

These grants will all have to go through final approval at the county legislature at 6 p.m. April 27.