Ocean County plans to spend nearly $23 million to upgrade its radio communications system and modernize its Criminal Scene Investigation Unit. 

Ocean County Emergency Dispatching Operations Center (Dianne DeOliveira, Townsquare Media NJ)

On Wednesday, the freeholder board is expected to give the project final approval.

Freeholder John "Jack" Kelly, who also serves as the board's public safety director, said the county had been talking about the upgrade to the radio system for a number of years.

"There's more interference than ever on the radios for all emergency services, police, fire, first aid - and for some years we've been trying to go from 500 to 700 megahertz. We are now ready to do that," Kelly said.

The upgrades include constructing radio towers to raise public safety radio transmissions to the range at which commercial television broadcasts. Ocean County Sheriff Mike Mastronardy is thankful the freeholders support the 12-to-18-month project, and said it couldn't happen fast enough.

"I know it's a costly project, but what's the cost of either a firefighter, or EMS, or police officer. This is going to protect them in the future," Mastronardy said. "We have situations in the radio room right now where we switch to another channel. People can't hear people. People get frustrated."

The project includes a new 911 phone switch and upgrades to the Criminal Scene Investigation Unit's laboratory equipment.