ELYSBURG — Ralpho Township’s top cop told the board of supervisors at their monthly meeting Tuesday that the department’s new portable radios are ineffective and expressed concern for officers’ safety.
Police Chief Stu Appel said that the Kenwood portable radios, which were recently purchased by Northumberland County as part of a new countywide 911 system, “do not work” and asked them to consider purchasing six Motorola radios — one for each officer — at an estimated cost of $2,790 each.
“There have been a few instances where officers were in foot pursuits — officers calling for help — and there’s nobody to hear them,” he told supervisors regarding a lack of transmission. “They (past county administration) bought Kenwoods because they were substantially cheaper; however, in my opinion, they are a substantially inferior product.”
He informed supervisors that the fire department uses Motorolas and that officials have expressed satisfaction with those. The problem with Kenwood radios, Appel said, seems to be unique to geography, but noted that a Motorola portable radio on loan to the police department had coverage in the same locations where Kenwoods did not.
“The system put us back 30 years,” Appel said of the county switching from analog to digital. “There is very little in-building reception.”
The $12 million mandated project was initiated in 2005 after the Federal Communications Commission ordered updates to 911 systems throughout the country in light of the terroristic attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. After several delays, it went live May 31.
Appel said the only township cost, so far, has been the purchase of a multi-radio charger for approximately $900.
Russ Fellman, county 911 coordinator, said Wednesday he is aware of the deficiency with the system and that county officials have met with various agencies to access coverage issues and are working with the vendors to correct the issue. Additional meetings are in the process of being scheduled, he said.
Asked if a solution included building a new tower, he declined comment.
Appel presented to supervisors Tuesday a three-year lease-to-own contract proposal at $85 a month between Ralpho Township and Motorola that is valid until Dec. 15.
Supervisors may not have that long to mull over a decision on the radios. Their 2018 budget meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 24.