County’s emergency radio system closer to overhaul

Commissioners authorized finalizing of contract for $42.1 million

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

County Commissioners Terence Farrell (from left), Ryan Costello, and Kathi Cozzone authorized the completion of a $42.1 million contract to replace the county’s emergency radio system. It is expected to be signed at the commissioners’ Feb. 14 meeting.

As expected at Thursday’s meeting, the Chester County Commissioners authorized the finalizing of a contract to replace the county’s emergency radio system.

The agreement with Harris Corp. calls for a $27.4 million capital expenditure to install the system and $14.7 million in operating expenses for an extended maintenance contract, which will add eight years to the two-year warranty.

“I think it was a very thorough and transparent RFP (Request for Proposal) process,” said Commissioners’ Chairman Ryan Costello, complimenting Ed Atkins, who heads the county’s Department of Emergency Services, and his staff.

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone added thanks to the volunteer advisory committee, which included leaders of the first-responder community. The group, which met monthly for more than a year and a half starting in early 2009, often consulted with the rank-and-file to determine what the system needed to serve the community most effectively.

Chester County operates an emergency voice radio system that provides emergency voice communication for the county’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services (EMS) responders – communication that stems from an average of 800 incidents a day requiring 8,000 radio transmissions.   Problematic since its inception, the system is now woefully outdated, public-safety officials said.

“This new emergency radio system is vital to the communication needs of our 5,000-plus first responders, and it uses existing infrastructure and a pre-planned modernization scheme to keep it in use for many years to come,” said Commissioner Terence Farrell.

In a prepared statement, Brian Sheller, president of the Chester County Chiefs of Police; Ray Stackhouse, who heads the Fire Chiefs Association, and Keith Johnson, president of the EMS Council, said: “We are pleased that this day has come and that a new radio system will ensure necessary on-street and in-building communication, and better audio quality, reliability and security.   We thank the commissioners for recognizing the need for this investment and for taking the bold step to bring it to fruition.”

Ron Williams, an attorney handling the contract, said he expected it would be ready for a vote at the commissioners first meeting in February. If approved, Harris would begin work on upgrades immediately, county officials said.

In other business, the commissioners authorized the staff at the Pocopson Home to prepare a bid package for laundry equipment and to obtain estimates on the cost of altering up to 16 rooms to provide short-term rehabilitation services. Both moves were recommended as ways to increase revenue at the facility, a 275-bed, county-owned operation in Pocopson Township that has been plagued by red ink.


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