DARKE COUNTY — Fire departments throughout Darke County found out Thursday the state has awarded money to help upgrade their communications systems.
Mindy Saylor, director of Darke County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (EMA) said Darke County fire departments will receive more than $600,000 to to purchase MARCS (Multi Agency Radio Communications Systems) radio equipment and the associated fees for use of the State-Wide emergency communications system.
The MARCS system is a statewide radio system giving all emergency agencies — fire, EMS, police — the ability to have contiguous communications throughout the state. Agencies with differing radio systems currently often have difficulty communicating with each other, even within short distances.
Agencies in all Ohio counties surrounding Darke County are currently using the MARCS system. Neighboring Randolph County in Indiana has a compatible system. In addition to fire departments, Darke County law enforcement and EMS agencies are also seeking to upgrade to the MARCS system.
Saylor said the grants awarded are “another big piece of the pie — a big piece.”
“It should cover a large chunk of the fire department’s portable radios,” she said, although the departments may still need to find funding to cover mobile radio units.
State Fire Marshal Larry L. Flowers announced the awardees for the MARCS grants for Fiscal Year 2017, which includes 165 fire departments in 25 counties throughout the state.
Of the 165 awardees, 75 fire departments in nine counties are receiving equipment as part of regional grant requests. The remaining 90 departments are receiving funding to cover MARCS user fees.
According to the state fire marshal, local fire departments chosen for the grant were selected based on a variety of criteria, including the fire department’s annual budget, annual number of fire incidents and the resident population served by the department. Regional applications received highest priority in the review process.
In all, 14 Darke County fire departments will receive money. Those awarded include:
- Ansonia Fire Department $30,645.52
- Arcanum Fire Department $37,159.30
- Greenville Fire Department $47,317.60
- Hollansburg Fire Department $47,549.98
- Pitsburg Fire Department $47,490
- Rossburg Fire Department $36,537.84
- Union City Fire Department $47,280.92
- Versailles Fire Department $45,846.70
- Liberty Twp. Volunteer Fire Department $47,969.20
- Gettysburg rural Fire Department $44,965
- New Madison Fire Department $46,446.80
- North Star Community Fire Department $46,594
- Osgood Community Volunteer Fire Department $40,417.60
- Greenville Twp. Fire Department $40,000
“These awards are significant in the forward progress of moving Darke County emergency communications to the Ohio MARCS System. We are currently in the process of constructing a MARCS tower in Union City Ohio, in which we were awarded $500,000 from the Ohio Capital Safety Grant,” said Saylor.
“I’m proud of our fire departments,” she added. “We had 100 percent sending in applications, so that was a key in them receiving funding. It’s another step in reducing the financial burden on taxpayers and says a lot for our community and our first responders.”
Greenville Fire Department Russ Thompson was pleased with the grant award, which will allow his department to purchase 16 Motorola MARCS portable radios, plus accessories and user fees.
“This is a benefit to our entire county. It means less money the taxpayers will have to put towards the radios,” he said. Thompson said more funding is needed, however, as an additional 9 portable units, plus accessories will be required to equip all 24 fire personnel. As well, the department is seeking mobile units. Other county fire departments face a similar task in order to be fully equipped.
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