Upper Gwynedd Fire Co Relief Association Budgets $200,000 for New County Radios, Township Will.

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The Upper Gwynedd Township Fire Co. Relief Association is ready to reimburse Upper Gwynedd Township $200,343.36 for new, upgraded public safety cp040 two way radios that will be purchased by the township from Montgomery County via an interest-free loan.
County commissioners announced in 2012 that it will spend $39.8 million to upgrade and maintain its 800MHz emergency radio system through a contract with Motorola. Of that amount, $23.8 million will go toward microwave relays and software to upgrade as many as 3,400 radios, $9.9 million will cover maintenance for 10 years and the remainder would purchase 1,800 new radios.
The problem is, no one knows when the county will offer the The walkie talkies for the upgrade, but a deadline for orders has been set for November 2014.
“They don’t tell me much,” said Upper Gwynedd Township Fire Chief Chris Sharkey to township commissioners at its workshop meeting Tuesday. “My understanding is … the relief association will be purchasing them, but we can’t be a part of the loan. The township is responsible for payment of the loan and we would need to repay you or work out a deal with the county.”
Furthermore, radio upgrades for township Fire Marshal Jeff Tomczak totaling $9,600 will be added to the loan.
“The fire department can’t pay for it,” Sharkey said. “If you want me to add that number to our number, that’s fine. The township would need to reimburse the fire department.”
Township Manager Len Perrone said it was important that the fire marshal’s equipment is the same type and frequency as the fire department’s equipment.
“It made sense to jump on board with the fire company purchase, and then we will reimburse the fire company,” Perrone said.
Sharkey said the portable and mobile Two way Radios will be replaced in the department. Certain line officers have their own radios and each fire apparatus has its own portable radios with the mobile radios, he said.
“Not everybody gets one,” Sharkey said of the radios.
Upper Gwynedd Township Police will also be upgrading their radios, but payment for that will come from the township general fund.
“The county wants to be paid by the township. The township will pay for the police radios through the general fund. We will be the pass-through for the fire relief association,” Perrone said. “We will be paying off the loan interest-free over five years.”
Sharkey said the fire company relief association preferred to spread out repayment of the $200,000 versus a lump-sum payment.
“The reason we are coming out is, we do not want to be forgotten about,” Sharkey said.
Perrone asked Sharkey to turn over the total radio unit requirements needed for the fire department to township Police Chief David Duffy. Duffy said he would stay on top of the issue as it progresses through the county.
Duffy said he has been in contact with the county public safety director on the issue. On June 25, the police department will view portable radio options available and then pick the equipment they want with the upgrade.
“(The county) gave out prices, pictures and references. We are getting an actual display at the county emergency operations center next Tuesday to look at it. There are not a lot of options, but we’ll pick what works for us. We have shared event channels regardless, but the type of radio for the fire department is different for them than us.”
Sharkey said the fire department wanted to do this right the first time.
“The reason we want to jump on board with this loan is, not a lot of fire departments jump on this loan. The county will eliminate (the 800MHz system) in 2020,” he said. “That is the projection for when the old radios will no longer work.”
He said the fire department is looking into selling the 800MHz radios now to get a better price.
“We need to know by September-October how much this will cost,” said commissioners President Kenneth Kroberger. “There’s no problem with the concept.”
Perrone said the township needs to be prepared to sign off on the purchase.
“Every year, we have to plug in the budget a number to retire the cost,” Perrone said.
The radio upgrades are just one of many major changes coming to the fire department. The roof replacement of part of the main headquarters on Garfield Avenue in West Point has been completed, Sharkey said.
“It’s been reviewed not only by the building inspection department, but also by the architect, Joe Del Ciotto,” Perrone said. “He’s OK with the bill being paid. The fire company will pay the bill and we will reimburse from the fire tax fund.”
However, the new roof has already sprung a leak and been repaired, Sharkey said. The same thing happened with part of an existing old roof of the fire department.
Next up: the floors.
“The fact is that nobody thinks (the floor) will collapse, but it needs to be addressed,” Perrone said.
Sharkey said blueprints have already been sent out to potential contractors, but he has not heard back from any of them.
“We need to find somebody,” he said.


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