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Copake Fire Co. plans digital ‘marqee’

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An example of what the Copake Fire District’s new electronic sign will look like. Image contributed

COPAKE—The old sign at the Copake firehouse will soon be replaced by a modern sign of the times.

Copake Deputy Fire Chief Randi Shadic and Copake Fire Company President Harold Jensen paid a visit to the Town Board at its April 14 meeting seeking funds to help pay for a new electronic sign to be displayed at 390 Center Hill Road in front of Copake Fire Company No.1.

The process for replacing the 30+ year old existing sign that requires someone to manually place black plastic letters on a white, lit-from-within, rectangular plastic surface, began a few years ago.

The fire company and the fire district moved forward in 2018 with getting the permits necessary to allow for a new sign, but never purchased one, Mr. Shadic told the board.

But with procrastination has come improvements, said Mr. Shadic and now with the latest high security technology the fire district can get a cutting-edge communications tool that will benefit the entire community.

To be located in the same place as the old sign, the new sign, which is the same size as the old sign, about three feet high by seven feet long, is capable of displaying multiple messages on both sides at the same time. There is room for scrolling messages—a maximum of 15 lines, each 2 inches high. It can also display color photos or other images.

Mr. Shadic told the board the sign will announce road closures, fire company fundraisers and public notices. The system will be tied in to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and publicize states of emergency, severe weather alerts, Amber Alerts, power outages, water or dry ice distribution sites and other critical messages when necessary.

He noted that the fire company uses Columbia County Management Information Services (MIS) to manage its computer technology but that the new sign will require no computer hardware in the firehouse.

Additionally, the sign will run on a generator even when the power goes off.

Mr. Jensen told The Columbia Paper by phone this week that the sign is a Watchfire brand and will come from Matthew’s Signs in Stockport.

He said the “cloud-based” technology will allow those designated to program the sign to do it right from their cell phone, even from the scene of an emergency, such as a crash or fire, to let the public know a road is not passable.

He said members who saw a sign demonstration last fall agreed upon a six pixel high quality display which will be visible to passersby traveling at up to 35 miles per hour in a vehicle, on a bicycle or on foot. He said the sign could also accommodate a welcome announcement about a new fire company member and show a photo of that person so people would know who it is. It won’t look like a child’s “Lite Brite,” he said.

Mr. Shadic said the Churchtown, Livingston, Chatham and Hudson fire departments already have these kinds of signs.

The deputy chief told the board that the fire company and the fire district have each agreed to kick in about $10,000 apiece and that he was there to ask the town to make up the deficit of about $31,000 to pay for the sign. He was hoping the town would designate some of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for that purpose.

Copake Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said by phone this week that the town expects to receive just over $346,000 in ARPA money.


The sign will run on a generator even when the power goes off.


After some discussion, Ms. Mettler motioned that the town commit up to $31,000 to the fire district for the purpose of purchasing the electronic sign. The board unanimously agreed. It was noted that the purchase should be made soon because technology prices are on the rise.

Mr. Shadic said by phone that if all goes smoothly, he would expect the new sign to be in place sometime over the summer.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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