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Indiana County emergency radio system in use; final link planned

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 1:48 p.m.

The Indiana County Commissioners heard some good news about the county's extensive emergency management radio project at their Jan. 8 meeting.

Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Stutzman said the fiber optic cable system linking the county's emergency management radio project is nearing completion.

Though a final section of fiber optic cable had yet to be completed, the system was already operational – a testament to its versatility, Stutzman said.

“We have connectivity today,” Stutzman said. “We're utilizing the path that goes through Armstrong County and, by the end of next week, we'll have, using the county's microwave network, connectivity that gets us from Blairsville to Indiana and avoids that area we're waiting to get completed along Route 119.

“When that section's complete, we'll have the entire project completed,” he added. “But that's not going to hold us up in actually implementing because we can use the diversity of the system that we've constructed to bring it up live without that being done... It shows that the integrity of the system will work even when you're missing a piece of it.”

The fiber optic portion of the project was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012, but Stutzman said corporate policies of the various companies that own the utility poles on which the fiber optic lines are to be hung have delayed progress. The last remaining stretch of fiber optic cable – about two miles in total – will run along Route 119 in the Coral and Graceton area and should be completed by February, he said.

Commissioners also approved a change order to the radio project that reduces the project cost by $269,340.61 due to parts which had been budgeted for but were not required.

Two previous change orders had added $1,409,969 to the project's original $7,444,193.36 total. After the latest change, the project's total cost sits at $8,583,821.75, but Stutzman said additional cost savings could result as the project is completed.

Clymer Borough will become the first municipality to take advantage of the agency's lease-to-own offer for surplus radio equipment. Commissioners approved a five-year lease-to-own agreement between Clymer and the county's emergency management agency for two mobile radio units and two portable radio units for use by Clymer's police department. Clymer will pay $2,331.52 per year during the lease term.

“I think it's nice that we can give the municipalities this advantage, because otherwise they may not be able to afford it,” Commissioner Patricia Evanko said.

Stutzman said the agency initially ordered enough mobile and portable radios to have 20 extra of each type, but some agencies found the portables preferable to the vehicle-mounted mobile units they had requested. As a result, Stutzman said the county's surplus increased to 23 mobile units and 25 portables.

Other municipalities have contacted the agency to express interest in the lease-to-own program, Stutzman said, and some others have already independently purchased new radio units.

The emergency management agency will continue to lease garage space from McNaughton Bros., Inc. as it has in the past, but at a higher monthly rate. Commissioners approved a lease renewal that increases the monthly payments to the company from $500 to $700. The rates had remained steady at $500 since 2004.

“It's a very well-used space,” Stutzman said. “Right now, you probably couldn't walk through it there's so much stuff crammed in there.”

Commissioners approved the district attorney's office's maintenance and service agreement with the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Institute for the Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification (SAVIN) system, which automatically sends out alerts by e-mail or telephone when an inmate's status changes. The agreement totals $703.43 for 2014 and was included in the district attorney's office budget.

Commissioners approved a request from the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development to apply for a Keystone Communities Program grant in the amount of $250,000 through the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The grant would require a dollar-for-dollar match and would be used to make housing accessibility modifications for disabled county residents.

LuAnn Zak, of the Office of Planning and Development, said the group has applied for a federal grant that would match the state grant if both are awarded.

“The reason we are going after the state money in addition to that federal money: the federal dollars do not allow us to address any rental properties where a disabled resident is and we get an awful lot of requests for that,” Zak said.

In the event that the office is awarded the state grant but not the federal grant, the office would need to adjust its budget to provide the match, Zak said.

“We have some other programs that we could go back on and utilize for the match,” she said. “We'll come up with it. We'll figure it out.”

Commissioners approved extending the termination date on the Indiana County Development Corporation's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program contract for work on the Joseph Land Development project by one year, for a new end date of April 30, 2015.

Planning and Development Executive Director Byron Stauffer said all other terms for the $750,000 RACP grant will remain the same, but the extension would give time for the project to be completed before the RACP contract is terminated.

The Office of Planning and Development also gained the commissioners' approval to purchase a 2014 Ford Explorer from Tri-Star Motors for $26,804 to replace a Ford Taurus that has been taken out of commission by the agency.

Two new private provider contracts were approved that permit Children and Youth Services to use Dr. John Carosso and Associates and Family Psychological Associates on an as-needed basis.

Both private provider contracts are new for this year; rates are comparable to providers already in use by CYS.

The commissioners approved 19 reappointments to various boards, authorities and commissions during their first meeting of the new year, along with three new appointments. Janene Maust was appointed to a term expiring Jan. 2019 on the Redevelopment Authority while commissioner chairman Rodney Ruddock and new commissioner Michael Baker were appointed to replace retired commissioner David Frick on the Soil Conservation board and Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, respectively. Commissionsers also reappointed Janis Long as chair of the Farmland Preservation Board.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or

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