Cambria to upgrade 911 system

Commissioners to spend more than $200,000 for network design

EBENSBURG — Seeking improvements to the local 911 system, Cambria County Commissioners voted Thursday to spend more than $200,000 for a network design.

The decision came after an expert analysis of the current public safety radio system identified “serious problems,” said county 911 Administrator Robbin Melnyk.

“Those problems must be addressed,” she said. “Some of them are more immediate than others.”

Melnyk said addressing all of those problems will certainly be “expensive” and likely will take several years.

On Thursday, commissioners voted to approve a contract with Mission Critical Partners at a cost of $201,870.

The agreement is in place for Mission Critical Partners to provide 911 network design services.

“This contract is the next step in moving in the right direction,” Melnyk said.

In Cambria County, there are areas where 911 operators and emergency responders are unable to communicate through radio waves, she said.

That could be a problem in cases when a police officer needs backup and is unable to radio for help, she said.

The contract, Melnyk said, will first allow 911 officials to address immediate concerns and to circumvent those failures.

Secondly, it will allow the formation of a detailed design to upgrade the county’s entire communication system.

Creating that design will mean evaluating current tower sites while communicating with local responders, Melnyk said.

Problems with the system have compiled overtime, and patchwork fixes no longer suffice, she said.

Nearby counties have been able to upgrade to digital technology, and, now in Cambria County, Melnyk said “it’s time.”

The goal is to have 95 percent portable coverage in the entire county, she said.

Commissioner William “B.J.” Smith asked how the project would be funded, questioning whether grant money could be used.

Grants were not awarded for the project, but there may be some overlap with another project intended to connect the Cambria 911 center to neighboring Blair and Bedford counties, Melnyk said.

In December, the county was awarded an $800,000 grant from the Pennsyl­vania Emergency Manage­ment Agency to improve communication infrastructure to better connect the communities.

Those improvements also could benefit Thursday’s project, ultimately cutting county costs, Melnyk said.

“We are leveraging some grant money,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.