Kurt Schrader got $1.2 million to help Marion County public safety agencies develop improved radio communications

A new multi-agency radio system is planned to improve public safety throughout Marion County.

The Woodburn Fire District reported that on May 6, Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader visited the district to officially present $1.2 million in federal funds to help with the development of the county-wide radio network to improve emergency communications.

Marion County Commissioner Danielle Bethell, Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast and a number of representatives from law enforcement, fire departments and ambulance transport agencies throughout the county attached to the presentation.

WFD Chief Joe Budge said the event was hosted by the district because it is one of 19 Marion County fire agencies that will benefit from the upgraded radio system.

Budge added that the federal funding Schrader obtained will help purchase portable radios to be used in conjunction with a three-year countywide project to upgrade the county’s public safety radio network. The new state-of-the-art communications system will improve connections between 9-1-1 dispatchers and firefighters, police and paramedics working in the field.

Bethell thanked Schrader for securing federal funding and pledged the support of the Marion County Board of Commissioners to ensure the project is completed. Marion County is providing the majority of the more than $13 million needed for the project through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding allocated to the county in 2021.

Bethell also praised Marion County Public Works Director Brian Nicholas for his leadership in managing the infrastructure project, which includes the construction or use of more than 10 radio towers as part of the integrated system.

Nicholas’ efforts were instrumental in obtaining federal funding.

“Ensuring our emergency responders have the communications equipment they need is paramount as they risk their lives for their community,” the Marion County Board of Commissioners said in a statement. . “We have been humbled by the service of our emergency responders over the past few years, and we are proud to help provide them with the right tools to be safe and successful.”

Budge added, “Improved communications will improve the safety and effectiveness of public safety responders, which will improve their ability to protect and protect those who live and work in Marion County.”

Kast has also been a strong advocate for improvements to the radio system, saying they are needed to improve communications with deputies in all corners of the county.

“The ability to communicate effectively in an emergency is critical to keeping our community and first responders safe,” Kast said. “This project is a significant investment; we are fortunate to have so many public safety and community leaders committed to ensuring Marion County’s emergency service agencies are able to provide safe and efficient services to our community.”

Budge pointed out that the Schrader-arranged stipend removes a significant financial hurdle that many agencies would not be able to overcome without this help.

Completion of the project is tentatively scheduled for 2025.

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