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California County Gets $5.6M to Boost First Responders

San Luis Obispo County will receive $5.6 million of federal money to improve communications systems used by emergency responders for fire, crime and medical emergencies, lawmakers have announced.

First responders in New York, firetruck
Shutterstock/JC Roman
(TNS) — San Luis Obispo County will receive $5.6 million of federal money to improve communications systems used by emergency responders for fire, crime and medical emergencies, Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal announced Monday.

"Our first responders work around the clock to keep our communities safe and to help Central Coast families in emergencies," Carbajal said at a news conference on Monday. "Since they have our backs every single day, it's my job as their representative and a member of our Central Coast community to have theirs."

The grant will be allocated to five projects, ranging from building new radio communications towers in areas with limited service to improving existing towers, according to a news release from Carbajal's office.

Emergency service agencies such as Cal Fire and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office use radio towers to communicate.

When someone calls 911, that call is bounced from agency to agency through radio waves between communication towers. Officers in the field responding to emergencies also rely on those communications towers to talk with each other and their headquarters.

Of the $5.6 million, $1.1 million will be used to replace the communications tower on top of Cuesta Peak, and another $1.1 million will replace the La Panza tower, the release said.

"The equipment will be newer, more agile, more reliable, but covers the same area," said Daniel Milei, chief information officer for the San Luis Obispo County Information and Technology Department. "People will be able to respond to incidents much quicker than before."

Carbajal, who's in his third term as U.S. representative for California's 24th congressional district. said improving communication between first responders is critical to public safety.

"The investment we're doing here, it's about saving lives," Carbajal told The Tribune on Monday. "Whether it's a car crash, whether it's a crime in progress, whether it's a wildfire, whatever the emergency might be, these towers will enhance the interoperability of communication between first responders."

The county will also build two new communications towers in areas that currently have limited service.

"These communications upgrades will also improve response to emergencies in our harder-to-reach rural areas, where untreated threats could threaten our entire region," Carbajal said at Monday's news conference.

A new $1.25 million tower will be built in Nipomo to handle communications in South County and the Nipomo Mesa area, according to the release.

The other $1.25 million communications tower will be built in west Paso Robles and cover the Lake Nacimiento area, the news release said.

"That is an extremely remote area," San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson said of Lake Nacimiento. "In most summers, we have a huge visitor presence, certainly a large population out there."

With so many people visiting Lake Nacimiento, it's critical to have swift emergency response in the area, Gibson said.

Milei noted that with the two new towers, SLO County will have nine total communications towers — providing law enforcement with more reliable communication.

"We will never have full coverage, but we're getting very close," Milei said. "'Very close means safety — safety for everyone."

The county will use $600,000 to create a countywide radio channel to be used exclusively for the Sheriff's Office, and $300,000 to add more radio communications channels to the Cave Landing communications center in Avila Beach, which covers Diablo Canyon Power Plant, the news release said.

These projects are funded by the 2022 federal funding bill, which allocated about $18 million in direct funding to the Central Coast, according to the release.

© 2022 The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.