Luzerne County Council Approves 911 Communications Upgrade Consultant
WILKES-BARRE — A $20 million project to upgrade the Luzerne County 911 communication system from analog to digital has a project manager, following a unanimous county council vote Tuesday night.
Council approved a $380,357 contract with MCM Consulting Group to manage the upgrade project. County officials say it needs to be completed by 2020, when the manufacturer will stop providing support for the analog system currently used by 911 dispatchers and emergency responders throughout the county.
Following debate over how to fund the contract, council voted 10-0 to approve it. Council also voted to pay the bulk of the money due, about $266,000, from the county reserve fund. The remainder is included in the 2019 budget for the county 911 department.
The county will effectively use a recent state reimbursement of $235,000 to pay much of the MCM contract. Council voted to place the reimbursement money in the reserve fund.
MCM will provide professional services that include project planning, grant writing and technical assistance.
Councilman Stephen A. Urban asked whether some of that work could be done by current 911 employees and managers.
Fred Rosencrans, county 911 executive director, said none of his workers is an expert in the use of the new digital radios the county plans to acquire.
“It comes down to time as well,” Rosencrans said. “This is a huge undertaking.”
Rosencrans noted that MCM helped Erie County develop a similar project, that turned out successfully.
Councilman Harry Haas asked how much money the company saved Erie County. Rosencrans estimated the savings at $3 million to $5 million, noting that MCM “beat up on the vendors pretty well.”
Urban said a vote in favor of the MCM contract would basically commit the county to pursuing
$20 million in long-term borrowing to pay for the upgrade project.
County Manager David Pedri said the county will aggressively pursue other funding sources, such as state gaming grants, to pay for part of the project cost. That would reduce the amount the county needs to borrow, he said.
Haas said he “is excited to see what (MCM) can do” to save the county money and move the project forward.
Pedri, Rosencrans and council Chairman Tim McGinley emphasized the importance of completing the 911 equipment upgrade on time, calling it a vital public safety issue.
Although the analog equipment will not stop working after it goes out of support, replacement parts will be very difficult to find and broken equipment will likely not be repairable, county officials have said.
MCM submitted the only bid for the project, according to Rosencrans.
According to its website, MCM is a privately held consulting firm based in St. Mary’s, a city in Elk County. The firm is “dedicated to serving the public safety, education, government and healthcare community,” the website states.
Councilman Edward Brominski was absent.
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