By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda Fire Department is seeking $70,000 worth of new radio equipment for all of its full time members and some of its volunteers.
The common council met with fire Chief John Lapham to discuss the possible funding request as part of its capital budget process during a work session meeting on Tuesday.
Lapham said he has been working for the last six years to obtain the devices, which would likely cost nearly $1,600 apiece if Niagara County purchases them on behalf of the city, though he is still searching for cheaper options that are untested locally.
On Tuesday, Lapham said the purchase of 44 radios would allow interior operating volunteer firefighters to communicate during an emergency as well as bolstering the capabilities full-time members. There are 31 volunteer firefighters, though only about 20 of them are certified to enter burning structures or get involved in other hazardous situations.
“I’m not here to skin the taxpayers,” Lapham said, after his presentation to the council. “I’m here to keep my guys safe.”
Mayor Rob Ortt urged Lapham to conduct further research on the less expensive radios, which would cost $960 apiece, before the council made a final decision.
“I don’t think anyone here is against finding a better way for your guys to communicate,” he said. “Let’s find out where they work and which ones are the best.”
Part of Lapham’s urgency in obtaining the new radios are due to a federal mandate that requires municipalities to switch to narrow band radios by 2013.
“Right now I can stand outside DeGraff hospital and I can’t even talk to someone inside of it,” Lapham said, of the radios currently being used by his department.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.