SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Governor Doug Ducey was in southern Arizona Friday to present a $1 million check to Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.
"What can we do for Cochise County and the rural areas that will deliver on improved public safety?" Ducey said in front of a standing room-only crowd at Sierra Vista Boys and Girls Club.
The presentation was part of a statewide initiative between the Arizona Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies, all of which will benefit from the Regional Communications Center to be built in Sierra Vista next year.
"So today I'm proud to support the Communications Center we're going to have here, and I want to present to Sheriff Dannels and the community leaders here a check for $1 million," Ducey said.
The idea behind the project originated more than 10 years ago when the Cochise County Sheriff's Department and the Sierra Vista Police Department saw a need to consolidate resources and improve communications among agencies.
Some infrastructural and radio improvements have already been made in Cochise County, officials said. But there's still a lot of work ahead.
Right now, at least 30 emergency response agencies are using obsolete radio equipment across southeastern Arizona.
According to Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, shoddy communication is not only ineffective, it's dangerous.
"That's scary, especially when you're running a task force operation," Dannels said. "My border team, when they're out there...chasing smugglers and we've had to back them off because of officer safety issues."
This is precisely what caught the attention of Governor Ducey, who promised not to be Maricopa-centric when he took office 11 months ago.
"Maricopa is a big county with Phoenix of course and we've got Pima with Tucson," Ducey said. "But you've got 15 counties in this state and each of them need attention and have very special, specific needs."
In Cochise County, those needs are predominantly communications based.
That's why Ducey allocated to $500,000 to the Cochise County Sheriff's Department last month, in addition to the $1 million dollar check presentation Friday.
That's $1.5 million the Governor's office has directed to Cochise County communications in the last few weeks.
"That's huge because in my experience dealing with Border Patrol and deputies, even myself with a cell phone, you've only got about 50 percent down here, said John Ladd, owner of 14,000 acres of ranch property between Naco, Arizona and the San Pedro River in Cochise County, much of it along the US-Mexico border.
"I got involved because I was sick of having illegals on the ranch every day tearing up everything that I own," he said. "I've had them in my house. I've had stolen trucks, stolen cars. But with cell phones, there's no getting through."
Ranchers will benefit from the communications improvements in that some will be provided digital radios, allowing them to communicate with authorities in real time.
"When we can bring a solution like we are to the table today and have a true partnership with the government and the state and the locals working together, we can bring some positive to their quality of life," Dannels said.