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$500K Expense Avoided for New Police, Emergency Equipment

Somerset County test on Tuesday shows that current communications system in compliance with county, federal frequencies.

A test on Tuesday of Bernards Township's emergency communications system, relied upon byfire companies and other emergency personnel, showed that the existing equipment is in compliance with county and federal standards for higher frequencies, thus averting the need for spending about $500,000, the township administrator reported.

The test, conducted earlier in the day, showed that the newer ultra-high frequency communications could be broadcast from the radio tower _ designed to look as a tree — that is at the municipal complex at 1 Collyer Lane, Township Administrator Bruce McCarthur told the Township Committee on Tuesday night.

Since the township switched in April to join Somerset County's police and emergency dispatching system, which replaced a dispatching system based at local headquarters, officials have been left wondering whether the township would need to upgrade its communications equipment to be compatible with the county.

McArthur said that federal standards now also require emergency equipment to be able to communicate on the narrower ultra-high frequency band.

Fortunately, he said on Tuesday, the test showed that UHF communications would work on existing equipment. That means the township won't need to buy up to $500,000 in radios, pagers and other communiciations equipment, a possibility that had been previously been anticipated, McArthur said.

"The savings of $500,000 confirms to meet that we made the right decision to move to the alternative" of joining Somerset County's dispatching service, said Township Committeeman Scott Spitzer.

"This was one of the concerns that we had — that we might make this investment," he said. Combined with other savings by switching to the county's free dispatch service, Spitzer said, "This affirms we made the right decision for our taxpayers."

At the same time, local fire companies and first aid squads also can use their existing radios and communications equipment with UHF, McArthur told the Township Committee. He said that means good news for those volunteer organizations, which also do not need to upgrade.

that the transition to a Somerset County-based dispatching system — which went into effect on April 1 — has gone smoothly, and the township can expect to save about $260,000 during this first year.

The savings have gone into effect after Bernards' headquarters-based system, which had been operated as a partnership with Long Hill Township, was terminated in April, police said. Long Hill had announced well beforehand that the municipality would withdraw from the shared dispatch service to join Morris County's emergency dispatch system.

"This savings includes expenditures made for the one-time infrastructure upgrades needed to secure our building and become compatible with some Somerset and Bernards hardware issues," Police Lt. Mike Shimsky said in an email earlier this month.

"We are happy...as far as cost savings as far as cost savings and the way we currently operate," Shimsky said during a report in late September before the Township Committee. He was accompanied during the presentation by Police Chief Brian Bobowicz and William Stahl, Somerset County Director of Public Health & Safety.

Shimsky then said that the department was testing, and intending not to change. fire and emergency medical service equipment from VHF (very high frequency) that would need to be mesh with the county's UHF (ultra high frequency) system.

"This will allow the police department to have better interoperability for communicating with other police departments in the county," Shimsky said about a month ago. "There are also some other technical enhancements with this system making it more advantageous to us."

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