By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
The budget committee approved a $20,000 amendment in order to create a wide band paging system for the Cumberland County Fire Department.
The committee and county had previously approved $100,000 for the project, but the bid for the project came in at $128,000.
After some tweaking with the specs and lowering the wattage of the system, from 250 down to 100, it will save the county another $8,000.
Procuring the additional $20,000 for the project has stirred up a debate among commissioners that has stalled the project and raised questions as to why the county would build a single site wideband paging system that is capable of expanding, when several commissioners were under the impression they were only requesting a single site non-expandable system be constructed.
"The problem I've got with the system is that what we said to do was not done that way. We said to build a single-site and you come back with this expandable. Something else is that I know the footprint of the county and coverage has not changed, but I have not heard of a problem with the paging system at all until now. I'd also like to see if there is a way the fire or ambulance department has a way to come up with some dollars from their budget to help with this thing," said 7th District Commissioner Mike Harvel.
Cumberland County must meet an FCC mandate of moving to narrowband frequency by Jan 1, 2013. When doing so, the county will lose about 30 to 50 percent of its paging coverage. Therefore, the county was advised to set up a new wideband frequency paging system for the fire department volunteers who use pagers.
"No disrespect intended here with what I'm going to say, but Eric Ritzman told us all along it was going to be $125,000," said 2nd District Commissioner Nancy Hyder.
"If he did what we said and bid it for a single, it would have come in much lesser," Harvel said.
"We were told it would be a single-site system and not the first of a multi-site system. That's what I voted on," said 3rd District Commissioner Dave Hassler.
"It was always pitched as a multi-site. That's what the county needs now. I came in with a three-site proposal and was told to make a single site to start and that's what we have done," said Eric Ritzman, county emergency radio system consultant.
Ritzman said a single site would roughly cost $50,000 to $60,000, but it would not be expandable in the future, and when the county wanted to expand it would have to start from scratch and lose roughly $50,000.
Harvel said, "We voted for a single site at the full county commission."
Jeff Brown, 8th District commissioner, said, "If we built a single site now and in 10 years we need to add more to it, I guarantee whether it's us, or different commissioners, they're going to ask 'why didn't we build an expandable site?'"
Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, said, "Paging capability for P-25 (digital) radio systems is coming down the line. If we build the first of a multi site now, who knows whether we'll need to build those additional sites or not?"
"Well, the paging system will always be good if it stays the same or is built up. The digital paging on P-25 systems may be possible, but the cost will be exorbitant," said 4th District Commissioner Allen Foster.
"I wouldn't object to a two-or three-site system if that's what was brought to us and told we would need to have, or if that's how I thought it was represented," Harvel said.
"Well, in my thoughts I am opposed to going with just a single (non-expandable) site," Foster said.
"And again, I never knew we have been having a problem with the pagers. In all the years I've been on this and doing this in these meetings since 2004, I hadn't heard one time we've been having problems with our pagers," Harvel said.
"We need the three-site now. There's been a coverage problem in the western portion of the county. It is not adequate as it stands," Ritzman said.
After more discussion, Hyder made a motion to approve the $20,000 to cover the remainder of the cost for setting up the wideband single-site, expandable paging system.
Jan McNeil, 5th District commissioner, supported the motion and it was approved in a 6-3 vote.
Voting in favor of the motion to fund the system were commissioners Hyder, 2nd District; Foster, 4th District; McNeil, 5th District; Terry Carter, 6th District; Brown, 8th District; and John Kinnunen, 9th District.
Voting against the motion were commissioners Hassler, 3rd District; Harvel, 8th District; and Harry Sabine, 1st District and budget committee chairman.
The committee also approved an amendment to appropriate $12,000 to pay for keeping the two frequencies that are used with the old radio system as back up for narrow banding. That was approved after a motion was made by Brown and it was supported by Kinnunen.
All commissioners voted yes except for Harvel. It passed in a 8-1 vote.