Carbon County officials are asking local municipalities involved in a countywide grant to replace emergency service radios, to write letters of support for the project.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein said he wanted to get the word out to all municipalities and local officials that letters supporting the Local Share grant application are needed. A sample letter will be sent out shortly.
The county will be submitting a grant application to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development later this year. The grant would help cover the $1.9 million expense the county's municipalities will incur as a result of the new Federal Communications Commission's narrowbanding mandate, which requires all firefighters, police, and emergency services to update their radios, mobiles and pagers to be compatible with more radio frequencies. The changeover goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
"This will affect every municipality in the county," Nothstein said.
He noted that the county is also looking into what other funding sources are available for the project and also said some municipalities have already secured some funds for the changeover.
The county is working with Delta Development Group Inc. of Mechanicsburg, the company hired to handle filing the Local Share grant application, and will submit its application by the end of the summer.
The countywide narrowbanding project came about earlier this year when county officials met with municipalities about the mandate and discussed the financial burden it is going to cause because equipment could cost anywhere between $500 to $2,000 per item.
In February, the county commissioners announced that they would try to help ease the burden for the municipalities by organizing a countywide grant application to the Local Share Account, which comes from gaming revenue in the state.
In March, the county held a meeting for all municipalities interested in partnering with Carbon to apply for the grant.
The meeting, held at the county Emergency Management Agency in Nesquehoning, brought up questions about the types of radios needed, how many radios each municipality will need to replace, and what still needs to be gathered for the application.
In other emergency service matters, the commissioners voted to enter into a training membership program contract with Bucks County Community College. The contract selects option two "Bronze membership with an annual fee of $800."
Nothstein explained that the courses through the community college used to be free of charge for emergency service personnel, but changes now require the college to charge for each hour of training.
The Carbon County Local Emergency Planning Committee decided that it would be beneficial to take an annual membership at a cost of $800. This membership provides 200 hours of training in various emergency courses, such as Hazmat and first responder awareness.
Nothstein said this will save the county around $1,300.
He added that in addition to the membership, the LEPC also purchased 30 training books, which the class participants can borrow.
Emergency service members and firefighters are required to continually train to make sure they are up-to-date on all practices and operations.
In other business, the commissioners approved the release of funds from the Hotel Tax fund for two area police departments.
Lehighton Police Department will receive $1,100 for traffic control during Bike Night; and Weatherly Police Department will receive $2,000 for traffic control of the Weatherly Hillclimb.
Nothstein said he agrees with helping the police departments financially during events like this but does not like that the county is using the hotel tax fund for these purposes.