Carbon County officials are moving forward in their attempt to secure funds to replace radios for emergency services, firefighters, and police in the county.
On Thursday, the commissioners voted to enter into a consultant agreement with Delta Development Group, Inc. of Mechanicsburg for professional services relative to filing a Local Share grant application with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The county is partnering with municipalities in the hopes of securing funds to cover the cost of replacing emergency communication devices that are not narrowband compatible. The total cost for Delta's services is $10,000 over five months and hourly rates after that.
Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said the county chose to go with Delta because they are confident in the company's ability. Delta has worked with Carbon during three previous grants and secured the funds each time.
He added that the county's next step is to discuss with representatives from Delta about what is needed for the application, which is due by September.
The narrowbanding project came about after the Federal Communications Commission created a mandate that will make more radio frequencies. The deadline for the changeover is Jan. 1, 2013.
According to the FCC website, "On Jan. 1, 2013, all public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems operating in the 150-512 MHz radio bands must cease operating using 25 kHz efficiency technology, and begin operating using at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology. This deadline is the result of an FCC effort that began almost two decades ago to ensure more efficient use of the spectrum and greater spectrum access for public safety and non-public safety users. Migration to 12.5 kHz efficiency technology will allow the creation of additional channel capacity within the same radio spectrum, and support more users."
This means that police, fire companies, emergency personnel, and public works will be affected by the changeover. This also creates major financial burdens on each of the municipalities, as well as the county, because if equipment is not narrowband capable, it must be replaced. Equipment such as this could cost anywhere between $500 and $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 communications matters, April 10 through April 16 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in Carbon County.
The county commissioners adopted a proclamation announcing that next week will honor the men and women who take 9-1-1 emergency calls and dispatch police, fire or emergency medical services to emergencies.
The proclamation states, "Emergencies can occur at anytime requiring police, fire or emergency medical services. When an emergency occurs the prompt dispatch of law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services is critical to the protection of life and preservation of property. Public safety dispatchers of Carbon County, the unseen heroes of our local public safety agencies, are the first and most critical contact our citizens and visitors have with the emergency services.
"The safety of our police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel depends upon the quality and accuracy of information obtained from citizens and visitors who telephone the Carbon County Communications Center. Public safety dispatchers of Carbon County have contributed substantially to the apprehension of criminals, suppression of fires and treatment of patients.
"Each public safety dispatcher of Carbon County has exhibited compassion, understanding, and professionalism during the performance of their job in the past year."
The communication center, which handles thousands of emergency calls annually, is located on the Broad Mountain in Nesquehoning.