The deadline for municipalities and emergency personnel to switch to narrowband radios is rapidly approaching, a Carbon County official said.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said the county needs to proceed on the conversion project of narrowband radios. The deadline for the conversion is Jan. 1, 2013.
The county currently has a grant application into the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for a local share grant in the amount of $1.4 million. The county has not received notification on the grant recipients.
Nothstein said that a meeting has been set up for 7 p.m., on Jan. 31, in courtroom No. 1, for municipalities to meet with the county to discuss agreements and any concerns the municipalities might have. Nineteen municipalities decided last year to partner with Carbon County on the countywide narrowband radio project after officials decided to be the applicant for the grant.
"Should we be awarded this grant we would need an agreement with the municipalities as to how we would order the radios," Nothstein said.
He provided the example of if the county receives only $800,000 for the project, the municipalities would need to agree that the remaining 20 percent would be their responsibilities.
Nothstein also said that they need a commitment from each municipality on the number of radios needed.
Nothstein added that the meeting will hopefully be able to hammer out these details so if the county is successful in its bid for the grant, officials could move forward with the purchase immediately.
The meeting will also have discussions on what the group will do if it is not selected for the grant.
One concern that Nothstein voiced was the availability of the radios because this narrowband conversion is occurring nationwide, not just in Pennsylvania or Carbon County.
The narrowbanding project came about as a result of the Federal Communications Commission's narrowbanding mandate.
According to the FCC website, "Narrowbanding is an effort to ensure more efficient use of the VHF and UHF spectrum by requiring all VHF and UHF Public Safety and Industrial/Business land mobile radio (LMR) systems to migrate to at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology by Jan. 1, 2013. More specifically, all existing Part 90 radio systems operating in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz bands have until Jan. 1, 2013 to convert those systems either to a maximum bandwidth of 12.5 kHz or to a technology that provides at least one voice path per 12.5 kHz of bandwidth or equivalent efficiency."
This means that all current radios mobiles, and pagers used by firefighters, police, and emergency services must be able to pick up a smaller radio frequency.
The reason behind the mandate, which was created in 2004, is because there are not enough radio frequencies to handle all of the emergency traffic anymore.
The countywide project between the county and municipalities came about last 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 2011, 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 2011, 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.
The county also hired Delta Development Group Inc. of Mechanicsburg to handle filing the Local Share grant application.