Vendors Sought for Estimated $20M Emergency Radio Upgrade

Officials in Luzerne County, Pa., are trying to put hard figures to a migration away from an outdated emergency communication system — support for existing transmitters and receivers will end in late 2020.

by Jennifer Learn-Andes The Times-Leader / April 2, 2019
Shutterstock/Chris worldwide

 

(TNS)  — Luzerne County, Pa., has invited vendors to submit proposals for its 911 emergency radio upgrade, which will finally put a firm price on a project that had been estimated at around $20 million.

“Now it’s time to give council and the county manager real numbers to work with so we can figure out what we’re able to afford,” said county 911 Executive Director Fred Rosencrans.

County officials want to switch from a 20-year-old analog system to a digital one because equipment support for the radio transmitters and receivers that allow emergency responders to exchange messages will end Dec. 31, 2020. The system won’t automatically shut down on that date, but replacement parts have become increasingly difficult to find because they are no longer manufactured.

Proposals are due at 4 p.m. July 15. The county’s lengthy request contains several detailed attachments and is posted on the purchasing section at www.luzernecounty.org.

Rosencrans wants to analyze all responses by August. Council has earmarked $1 million in the capital budget to begin the project, and new borrowing may be necessary to fund the rest, officials have said.

According to the request seeking proposals for a “P25 Phase II trunked, repeated, simulcast, 150-160 MHz/VHF Next Generation Public Safety Radio System” that includes countywide VHF analog paging.

The system must have the capacity to support 73 fire departments, 56 police departments, 38 EMS agencies, the sheriff’s department, 76 local municipal emergency management agencies, the county emergency management agency and five hospitals.

Combined, these public safety agencies service the county’s 906 square miles, approximately 317,340 residents and visitors and travelers passing through.

In their proposed system design and pricing, vendors must come up with a turn-key solution that incorporate state-of-the-art technology, warranties and maintenance.

These systems must meet minimum digital and audio quality thresholds set by the county, Rosencrans said.

While Rosencrans said it would be too costly to demand radio coverage inside all large buildings with thick walls, the request lists four “high-profile” structures that must have in-building coverage: the county courthouse and prison in Wilkes-Barre, the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township and the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Plains Township.

The county’s 911 center processed 410,431 calls last year, including emergency, non-emergency and administrative ones, the proposal said.

Of these, 292,600 resulted in dispatching of police. Another 81,833 involved summoning of fire and emergency medical crews.

Prospective vendors must participate in a mandatory two-day site visit on April 17 and 18, when they will inspect the 911 center in Hanover Township and all existing and planned tower sites. The vendors must come with their own four-wheel-drive vehicles and will be escorted by 911 representatives.

Once the county identifies the interested vendors at the site visit, it can provide more refined information on what’s needed — including the length of cable and number of portable radios and in-vehicle equipment, Rosencrans said. Detail reduces the need for companies to estimate, which should help the county, he said.

“The lower we take their risk, the lower the price should be,” he said. “We want to try to get all the information we can to them to get some good, solid prices.”

County council voted in November to hire Pennsylvania-based MCM Consulting Group for $380,357 to handle the first stage of the radio upgrade. The company prepared the request for proposals and is helping to determine the county’s equipment needs and seek grants and other possible outside funding, officials have said.

As part of the upgrade, the county has been approved for a $330,000 gambling grant that will help construct a new emergency communication tower off Harris Pond Road in Ross Township on land the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has agreed to lease to the county at no cost. The new 160 foot tower will improve emergency radio coverage in the Back Mountain, Rosencrans has said.

©2019 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.