Narrowbanding project upgrade expected by May
AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS Gary Williams, 911 manager, explains the timeline for the upcoming narrowband project changeover. All municipalities and counties are required to upgrade their equipment to comply with the Federal Communications Commission's mandate. The mandate lowers radio frequencies to 12.5 kHz bandwidth. This is because there are not enough radio frequencies to handle all of the emergency traffic anymore.
Carbon County is expected to begin moving forward with upgrading emergency radios this May, officials are reporting.
During a special meeting of the Carbon County commissioners Tuesday evening, representatives from some of the 19 municipalities partnering with the county listened as the commissioners; Gary Williams, 911 manager; and Daniel Miscavige, county solicitor, outlined what the next steps will be with the narrowbanding project.
The project will upgrade all emergency service, police and fire company radios, pagers and mobiles in the 19 municipalities, as well as the county, in order to comply with a Federal Communications Commission's mandate for more radio frequencies. Every municipality and county in the country has until Jan. 1, 2013 to comply with the mandate or they could face a $10,000 a day fine.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, welcomed everyone to the meeting.
He noted that the next step of the project is going to be a challenge because it means figuring out exact numbers of radios to purchase and making sure they are available for everyone.
Nothstein then introduced Williams, who talked about the narrowband mandate, which is reducing the radio frequency to 12.5 kHz bandwidth to allow for more radio channels for emergencies.
He noted that if fire companies, police or emergency services have newer models of radios, they may be able to be reprogrammed to the lower frequencies. Otherwise, new radios are required under the mandate.
Williams said that the estimated timeline for the changeover has been set based on the number of radios needed.
Emergency service groups will be the first to change over, starting in May or June. Police departments will then change over between July and August and fire companies, which require the most radios, will change over in September or October.
Commissioner William O'Gurek explained that each municipality will receive an inventory sheet of the number of radios they initially said they would need. Each municipality is required to review the inventory and make any changes. They must then sign and certify an agreement and inventory list and return it to the county before Feb. 29.
Nothstein stressed the importance of each municipality signing this agreement and double checking the inventory list because the municipality will be responsible for paying for the cost that is not covered by the $907,453 Local Share grant the county received for the upgrades.
Miscavige outlined the agreement, highlighting that the county is acting as the purchasing agent for the equipment, but after the municipalities receive the radios, it will be their responsibility to pay for the installation, maintenance, accessories, warranties and upkeep of the units.
If a municipality decided that they do not want the equipment after the order has already been placed, they will be required to pay for the full amount, not just the percentage not covered by the grant, Miscavige also pointed out.
Some officials questioned the amount that each municipality will be responsible for.
O'Gurek explained that the percentage that each municipality will have to pay has not been determined yet because total cost for the equipment has not been finalized.
He said that the county will determine the percentage by taking the overall cost of the equipment, subtract the $907,000 grant and the county's Community Development Block Grant commitment to the project. The remaining balance will then be used to determine how much every municipality will be required to pay for their share in the project.
For example, O'Gurek said, if it is determined that each municipality owes 10 percent, one group that purchased $20,000 worth of equipment will be required to pay $2,000; while another group that purchased $200,000 in equipment will be required to pay $20,000.
He noted that the commissioners are confident that the expense for each municipality will be "only a fraction" of the total cost for the equipment.
Nothstein and Williams again stressed the importance of returning the updated inventory sheets because the final percentage cannot be calculated without that total.
"This has to be a quick turnaround," Williams said of the project.
Nothstein added that the county must act quickly because the availability of each unit is questionable due to the fact that everyone in the country is trying to upgrade at the same time.
Following a brief discussion about types of radios, installation costs, and possible future countywide projects, the commissioners thanked everyone for their cooperation and adjourned the meeting.
Carbon County has been working on the narrowbanding project with area municipalities since early last year when the county commissioners decided to help ease the burden of emergency personnel by applying for a countywide grant.
The county then hired Delta Development Group Inc. of Mechanicsburg at a cost of $10,000 to handle the $1.4 million Local Share grant application.
Last Wednesday, county officials received word that they will be receiving $907,453 of local share funds to complete the project.