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$1M radio upgrades OK'd

The funding stems from a Senate Budget Committee hearing in Fargo last year, during which local first responders discussed what they would need to respond to a possible terrorist attack, said Conrad, D-N.D.

Sen. Kent Conrad

The funding stems from a Senate Budget Committee hearing in Fargo last year, during which local first responders discussed what they would need to respond to a possible terrorist attack, said Conrad, D-N.D.

"One of the things that we've learned from Sept. 11 is that an inability to communicate between first responders had cost people's lives," he said.

The $1 million will allow Fargo to complete the project, which has already secured a $2.26 million federal grant and $3.7 million in homeland security funding, Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness said.

The funds will be used to replace or upgrade outdated radio towers, signal repeaters, portable and hand-held radios, chargers and pager systems.

Police and firefighters in Fargo and Moorhead now operate on different frequencies, making it difficult to communicate during emergencies such as river rescues.

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"While we can see one another on opposite banks and in our own rescue boats, our radio systems are not compatible," Assistant Fargo Fire Chief Steve Balstad said.

In another example, Fargo Police Chief Chris Magnus said his officers faced a "communications nightmare" Thursday when a suicidal man who'd been driving around the city at speeds in excess of 70 mph decided to leave town west on Interstate 94. Fargo officers had to go through two or three dispatchers to reach the state Highway Patrol and let other agencies know what was happening, he said.

"Our ability to communicate with them about what was going on with this individual was very, very difficult," Magnus said.

As the Fargo-Moorhead area grows, the need for seamless communications will increase, Balstad said.

"As good as the emergency services are around here, this will make them that much better," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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