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Communications equipment maintenance questioned

Published March 16. 2012 05:01PM

Carbon County is looking into what they are paying a company for maintenance of the 911 communications equipment.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek asked if the motion to enter into an additional three-month extension with TuWay Communications of Bethlehem to cover maintenance costs for the new communications equipment was the right thing to do, considering TuWay raised the monthly maintenance fee to $12,275 because the county's equipment was outdated.

Now, O'Gurek said, the equipment is new, having been installed in January.

"In the past, they increased the maintenance fee because the equipment was old," O'Gurek said to his colleagues, "Shouldn't they be decreasing the cost because the equipment is now new. So I'm wondering about extending the contract at the same rates."

O'Gurek also asked if the extension time, to June 30, was correct because the county plans on bidding out a new maintenance contract for the equipment shortly and should have a new contract in place by May.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, asked that the motion to approve the extension be tabled until next week. This gives the board time to look into the matter more in depth.

The county decided to do the upgrade to the 911 system after entering into a $147,000 maintenance agreement with TuWay in December 2010.

At that time, TuWay told officials that the current equipment was not eligible for factory support because it was over five years old. It also would not support software upgrades. Because of this, the company raised the monthly maintenance from $11,825 to $12,275.

After much discussion, the commissioners began to plan for the project, which was to replace the outdated equipment with newer models. A hurdle that the county faced was making sure that the equipment they purchase is able to be configured with the software from PlantCML in California, which is the current dispatching software the county uses, and then integrated into the current 911 system.

The county advertised for bids for the project, but received only one, a $215,831 bid from TuWay. That bid was $55,000 higher than the initial estimates for the project.

The county re-advertised the project and, in October 2011, entered into an agreement with TuWay at a cost of $192,500.

In other matters, a number of county residents addressed the board.

Valerie Norato of Penn Forest Township talked about the National Detention Authorization Act, which has been signed into law.

According to Norato, the act states that military can detain American citizens without charge, without right to legal council and without right to a trial.

The act (Senate Bill 1867) was signed into law for this fiscal year, and has come under much scrutiny since being announced last year. The act provides approval for military to arrest and hold indefinitely suspected terrorists on American soil.

Norato provided the commissioners with a resolution that would nullify the act in Carbon County, and asked that they look into the matter and sign the resolution.

Robert Dages of Jim Thorpe, asked who owns the rights to the water, minerals and gas for the land at Packerton Yards and the Packerton Dam; and who would benefit from those royalties if the 59-acre Packerton site is industrialized by the county.

The board said they would have to research the matter.

Tom C. Gerhard, former county commissioner, addressed the issue of the gaming monies not going back to the taxpayers for real estate tax relief.

"I think the whole thing was sold to the taxpayers by a bunch of liars in Harrisburg," he said. "They gave the people the impression that the money was going to go back to the taxpayers for real estate. That's not true. The money is going back to the municipalities who spend it on dumb projects, that's political. Give it back to the taxpayers. They are the ones that paid the money and they are the ones that spent the money at the casinos."

O'Gurek responded, saying that he agrees in part with Gerhard's views.

"I agree with you that they convoluted the bill," he said. "Gov. Rendell actually proposed that this would help with tax relief, but you know the process in Harrisburg, they amend the bill until it becomes goofed up."

O'Gurek said that until they change the bill, the county is trying to get some of the money back for the taxpayers, through grants, and using it for county projects, such as the narrowbanding radio update project.

"We just received close to a million for a narrowband project in Carbon County," O'Gurek said. "That I would suggestion people in the 23 municipalities wouldn't say was silly at all, because in itself saved every municipality tax monies that they would have had to pay for radios for police, fire and ambulance. Some projects can be labeled dumb or silly but some are worthwhile."

Gerhard responded, saying that nothing was wrong with the radio system to begin with, so why did they have to change it.

He added that the federal government should have been responsible for paying the bill for the upgrades because they were the one that decided to make the changes.

He then again spoke of taxpayer relief.

"The money needs to go back to the taxpayers to help with real estate," he said of the gaming money. "I'm not interested in those projects, I'm interested in those people who are paying taxes every day real estate taxes and there's no relief."

Nothstein said he agreed with Gerhard and added that only 32.5 percent of the money made on casinos goes toward tax reductions.

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