Luzerne County is seeking proposals from companies interested in overseeing a 911 emergency radio system upgrade estimated at $20 million.
Proposals are due Oct. 22, according to a purchasing department posting at www.luzernecounty.org.
The switch from a 20-year-old analog system to a digital one is necessary because equipment support for the radio transmitters and receivers that allow emergency responders to exchange messages will end Dec. 31, 2020, officials have said. The system won’t automatically shut down on that date, but replacement parts have become increasingly difficult to find because they are no longer manufactured.
The consultant must identify needed equipment, write a proposed request-for-proposals seeking a company to supply it, and make sure the project is properly implemented on schedule, the posting states.
County 911 Executive Director Fred Rosencrans said an overseer is warranted due to the complexity of the project and the number of agencies involved.
The center dispatches and handles administrative and emergency calls for 76 municipalities in the 890-square-mile county, which is covered by approximately 174 police, fire and emergency medical service agencies. These outside agencies must be equipped with new portable and mobile radio equipment, although officials say they will encourage municipalities to seek casino gambling funding or other grants to help pay for their share.
A county loan may be considered next June to fund the project, officials said. As a major capital expense, it would not be part of the proposed 2019 general fund operating budget that will be presented next month. However, additional debt repayments, if any, would be incorporated in future operating budgets.
It’s unclear if the possibility of new borrowing and refinancing next year will be impacted by the county’s late 2017 audit.
The audit is not on Tuesday’s council meeting agenda because it is still undergoing a final review by the auditor, officials said.
Financial investors expect an audit by Sept. 30, and delays could negatively impact the interest rates on future borrowing/refinancing and the county’s credit rating.
Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he was informed the audit should be released Friday.
County Manager C. David Pedri had informed council in May the audit would not be completed by the home rule government’s June 30 deadline due to Children and Youth financial-record issues.
Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck said Friday she has several concerns. An audit covering Children and Youth has been completed, but it is “qualified” and will cause the county’s overall audit to receive that label, she said. The county’s home rule charter requires “unqualified” audits that are more thorough and meet generally accepted accounting standards.
McClosky Houck said the Children and Youth portion also is lacking a detailed explanation of the fiscal problems encountered in the agency’s records and a discussion and analysis from management that is expected under accounting standards.
McGinley said a special council meeting may be scheduled so council does not have to wait until the the Oct. 9 meeting to discuss the final report.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.