Future of Trout Run Bridge remains uncertain in Twp.Plans for new 911 system on track for 2013

By on November 9, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent gpklinger@yahoo.com, Staff Writer

Even though Tropical Storm Lee is quickly fading into distant memory, the effects could still be felt for several years to come.

Damage to the Trout Run Bridge in Ephrata Township during the storm has made necessary repairs in order to assure the bridge can remain open to traffic. Township supervisors discussed the future of the bridge at their morning session on Oct. 18 and again at their evening session on Tuesday evening.

Four different repair scenarios with varying degrees of cost have been discussed. What is not on the table at the current time is the complete replacement of the bridge. Efforts are underway to have the bridge added to the county’s TIP list of most urgent bridges in need of repair.

Township Manager Steve Sawyer advised supervisors that currently the bridge is ranked 10th on a county list of bridges for being added to the TIP for future replacement. While there are no indications exactly how long it will be until the Trout Run span can be added to the list, it will take several years. Actual replacement may not take place until 2017 or 2019.

It remains unclear what the cost to repair the bridge might be. It also remains unclear whether or not a special permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection or DEP would be needed to move forward with repairs. If one is needed, the cost of the work would increase approximately $15,000 above and beyond the actual cost of repairs. Engineering costs for the project will cost the township $3,000 with Rettew Associates charging the township $5,300 to prepare the bid packet for the preferred repair plan.

Police Chief William Harvey updated township officials on the new county-wide 911 radio system, which is set to be up and running by 2013.

"The new county-wide 911 radio system is scheduled to be tested under a full canopy of trees next summer," said Harvey. "By testing under full canopy the system can best be tested and tweaked for performance."

Harvey explained that once the final tweaks to the system have been completed, local police and fire organizations can begin to place their order for the new radios. If all goes well, those orders will start being placed in the fourth quarter of 2012 with final deliveries taking place in 2013.

"This will allow municipalities to make partial payments for the systems in 2012 and part in 2013 or perhaps even delay that budget item until 2013," explained Harvey.

So far three possible vendors have been in touch with the Ephrata Police force to discuss the new radios. Current estimates project a cost of $5,000 per portable unit. Harvey explained that these new radios are exceptionally high tech devices complete with a number of functions including a trunking system with a microprocessor type that unfortunately helps to drive up the cost. The units will run about 200 channels which will by default make it very difficult for the systems to be monitored outside the realm of official police and fire business.

Harvey noted that it would take a very expensive scanner, tuned in very well, and the novice would still only be hearing bits and pieces. He explained that full encryption could be added to each unit, but the $1,000 to $1,500 additional cost per unit did not seem justified.

Fire companies are likewise preparing to participate in the new 911 radio system; but for the fire companies, the cost picture could prove different than it does for police. For starters, a $1 million grant which would be divided out among the various participating companies would mean that those companies would only need to provide 10 percent matching funds to equip their "first out" equipment such as tankers, ladder trucks and personnel carriers. Between Lincoln and the Pioneer Fire Company, a total of seven units are needed for "first out" response units.

Different system requirements and specifications between police and fire will no doubt also mean a different cost structure for the portable units.

According to Harvey, final bids are still some time off. He said he would continue to keep both the township and Ephrata Borough abreast of progress as well as the potential costs for the new system.

For more information on Ephrata Township, visit ephratatownship.org. More TOWNSHIP, page A17

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