SARANAC - More money has been earmarked at the state level to increase communications access in the North Country. The town of Saranac was among 18 municipalities announced Monday to receive funding through the state Department of Environmental Conservation Adirondack Smart Growth Grant Program. Information released from the offices of Gov. David A. Paterson and state DEC Commissioner Alexander B. "Pete" Grannis stated the funding will be used to develop a comprehensive plan to identify existing structures in the Adirondack Park with potential for accommodating cell phone and wireless communications facilities. The town will receive $106,971 to assist the Adirondack North Country Association and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh Technical Assistance Center in creating the comprehensive plan known as the Wireless Clearinghouse project. According to Howard Lowe, director of economic development for the Technical Assistance Center, the project is designed to help both communities in the Adirondack Park and companies that wish to provide wireless and cell phone communications within the park. The project will involve creating a geographic information system database that will provide maps and images of locations of potential transmission points approved by the Adirondack Park Agency where wireless and cell phone antennas could be installed. "Once this is done, companies won't have to search for these on their own. The work will be done for them in advance," said Mr. Lowe. The project is estimated to take two years to complete, he added. The first step will be to hire a GIS consultant to put together a plan, which will involve visiting each community in the project area and meeting with municipal officials. Once locations for potential transmission points are identified, they will need to be photographed and properly documented and made publicly available through a Web site. Mr. Lowe, who is also the project director for CBN Connect - the coalition which aims to construct a 500-mile fiber optic and wireless network in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties - said the project will dovetail nicely with plans already in motion to establish a broadband network in the North Country. The wireless traffic that will eventually be available in the park, he explained, will need to be carried via fiber optic cable. "Balancing stewardship of the environment with the economic, housing and infrastructure needs of our Adirondack villages, towns and counties is critically important," Sen. Elizabeth O'C. Little stated in the press release. "I am pleased to see this partnership between the State and our local governments. I want to thank Commissioner Grannis for spearheading this initiative and congratulate the recipients for their successful applications." "It's very gratifying we were able to be the community chosen to apply for this grant," Saranac town Supervisor Joseph Gerardi said in a telephone interview Monday morning. "We're very excited about the progress of this project. It will mean the creation of much-needed infrastructure and something that will benefit the tri-county area."