Motorola wins Pa. county communications contract

The new system came in $6 million less than the previous estimate

By Mark Gilger
The News-Item, Shamokin, Pa.

SUNBURY, Pa. — Northumberland County commissioners awarded a $7.2 million contract Wednesday to Motorola Solutions to provide an enhanced, countywide, two-way wireless communications system that includes new tower site equipment and mobile and portable radios and pagers for fire and emergency medical services personnel in the current coverage area.

Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy approved the federally mandated system that is scheduled to be operational next summer. Commissioner Richard Shoch, who is on vacation, did not attend the special meeting or participate by teleconference.

The contract calls for a total equipment purchase of $6,669,254 and another $530,746 for three years of system maintenance by Motorola. The first year of maintenance will be covered under warranty by the company.

Clausi said the total contract and possible tower site improvements such as electrical work and an equipment shelter will not exceed $8.5 million.

The county currently owns four communications towers and leases two others. There are currently no plans to construct or lease additional towers.

In December, the county received notification that its deadline to meet the federal mandate for the 911 upgrades was extended by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to Dec. 31, 2013.

The county, which originally sought an extension until March 1, 2014, entered into a contract in November with Mission Critical Partners, State College, for approximately $450,000 for consulting services for the upgrades.

Sean Petty, senior technology specialist with Mission Critical Partners, said he's confident the county will receive another three-month waiver or extension from the FCC for the project. Petty said the FCC typically grants extensions when progress is being made to upgrade communications systems.

'Important day'

Clausi, who called Wednesday an "important day" in the county, said he was glad the price tag for the new system is approximately $6 million less than a previous estimate.

Clausi and Bridy commended Motorola and Mission Critical for working with the county in obtaining a lower price.

"We did what's right for the citizens of Northumberland County," Bridy said.

Petty added, "This is a very good price that serves the best interests of the county and first responders."

Petty said minimal upgrades can be made to the very high frequency (VHF)-trunked system. He said the new system will be inter-operable with other counties and will provide coverage for the entire county.

"The county has made incredible progress on this project in the past several months," Petty said. "This is a complicated system. We looked at everything in great detail to get the most competitive price."

He said 70 installed and programmed mobile radios, 400 portable radios and chargers, and 490 pagers will be purchased under the contract for fire and emergency medical services personnel in the current service area, which doesn't include Riverside and the northern end of the county.

Clausi said it would cost between $60,000 and $100,000 for radios and pagers for fire and EMS personnel in the northern end of the county.

Northumberland County 911 Coordinator Bill Brown said the county pays $19,836 per year to Montour County to provide dispatching services to Riverside and $71,685 annually to Union County to dispatch emergency calls to the northern end of the county, which includes areas north of Point Township and Route 405.

Brown said the current 911 system covers 27 municipalities including the Klingerstown area in Schuylkill County.

Northern end

Warrior Run Fire Chief Mark Burrows, who attended a meeting earlier this month to voice his concerns about the upgrades, once again complained about a lack of communication over the issue between the commissioners and fire and emergency officials in the northern end of the county.

He said Clausi previously claimed Union County was demanding $200,000 per year for dispatching services for the northern end of the county when the actual figure is $71,685.

Burrows, who noted the northern end of the county spent $125,000 in dispatching equipment during the past year, said, "This has become a financial issue."

Clausi agreed to meet with Burrows and other officials in the northern end of the county to further discuss the possibility of once again providing 911 services to the northern end. No decision was reached at Wednesday's meeting to include or exclude the northern end of the county under the new 911 system.

At the beginning of the meeting, Clausi and Bridy expressed their displeasure about Shoch's absence when the commissioners were voting on such an important and expensive project.

Clausi attempted to contact Shoch by telephone to allow him to participate in the meeting, but the call eventually went to voice mail.

Clausi and Bridy said Shoch was aware of the special meeting and had recently been in contact with chief clerk Gary Steffen and administrative secretary/ombudsman Karen Collier.

Bridy and Clausi said they did not know Shoch was on vacation when they scheduled the special meeting last week.


(c)2013 The News-Item (Shamokin, Pa.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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