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

COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Congressman Kurt Schrader joins a variety of public safety and Marion County officials on May 6 to formally present $1.2 million in federal funds that will be used to improve public safety communications countywide.A planned new multi-agency radio system stands to enhance public safety throughout Marion County.

Woodburn Fire District reported that on May 6 Oregon Congressional Rep. Kurt Schrader visited the district to formally present $1.2 million in federal funds to assist with the development of the countywide radio network aimed at improving emergency communications.

Joining the presentation were Marion County Commissioner Danielle Bethell, Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast and a number of representatives from law enforcement, fire services, and ambulance transport agencies from across the county.

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

Budge added that the federal funding secured by Schrader will assist with the purchase of 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 communication system will improve connections between 9-1-1 dispatchers and firefighters, police officers, and ambulance paramedics working in the field.

Bethell thanked Schrader for securing the federal funding and pledged the support of the Marion County Board of Commissioners in ensuring that the project will be 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 the management of 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 securing the federal funding.

"Ensuring that our emergency responders have the communications equipment they need as they are risking their lives for their community is paramount," Marion County Board of Commissioners issued in a statement. "We have been humbled by the service of our emergency responders these past years, and we are proud to be a part of getting them the right tools to be safe and successful."

Budge added: "Upgraded communications will improve the safety and efficiency of the public safety responders, which will improve their ability to safeguard and protect those that live and work in Marion County."

Kast, too, has been a strong advocate for radio-system improvements, saying they are needed to enhance communications with deputies throughout every corner of the county.

"The ability to communicate effectively during emergencies is vital 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 emergency service agencies in Marion County are able to deliver safe and effective services for our community."

Budge stressed that the allocation arranged by Schrader removes a significant financial barrier that many agencies would not be able to overcome without that assistance.

Completion of the project is tentatively scheduled for 2025.

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