WARREN, Pennsylvania – The Warren County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a historic lease-purchase agreement with Motorola to upgrade all emergency organizations’ radio systems and equipment and integrate all communications with the State Police’s radio network. The $1.8 million project will allow Warren County’s Emergency Management Organizations unprecedented access and integration to the State Police network of radio towers and systems, dramatically increasing radio coverage to remote areas, and allowing all first responders to communicate using the same channels and equipment. No other County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will have the same level of access to State Police Systems.

The County’s fire departments, municipal police, and other emergency management personnel currently work on analog systems purchased in the 70s and 80s which are both obsolete and failing. This radio technology does not allow our firefighters and police to talk directly to each other, nor does it allow them to talk to State Police personnel. This results in lags in message delivery and a lack of coordination between units. Also, the current radio system is produced by tower sites managed by the County Emergency Management Team which provides an estimated 80% radio coverage, leaving many “dead zones” where radios have no connectivity.

The new radio equipment, once installed, will be an entirely digital P25 system with a huge range of features making Warren County a leader in emergency management technology. Many of the features in the system are built to provide safety and security to first responders, including easy access alarm technologies, GPS range finding and alerts, global emergency channels for when the entire county needs to receive emergency messaging, and encrypted channels which will prevent criminal targets from tracking information.

Perhaps the most unprecedented piece of the agreement involves the integration of the Pennsylvania State Police STARNet radio system with Warren County’s Emergency Management Radio System. For the first time, a Pennsylvania County’s Emergency Management Personnel will be able to tap directly into the recently upgraded network of radios towns and equipment in order to achieve both 98% radio coverage but also talk directly to State Police on the same radio equipment to coordinate on responses (along with all state agencies including PennDOT, Fish and Boat, Game Commission, etc.). No other County will have this level of integration with the State Police making Warren County a trendsetter in Emergency Management.

Commissioner Kafferlin was pleased with the prospect stating, “I am so thrilled to be involved in this project with STARNet, because no one else has done this. We’re leading the charge. The radio upgrade impacts the safety of every one of our first responders and quality of life of all our residents.”

Todd Lake, Director of Emergency Management and 911 said, “The State of Pennsylvania and Director Bob Barnham have been great to work with and they’ve gone above and beyond to help us achieve this type of deal.”

The pilot program in Warren County is expected to draw the attention of other Counties in Pennsylvania who are in a similar situation with failing, outdated radio systems. The expectation at the State is to help Counties tap into the State Police Network and further integrate emergency management systems.

This was confirmed by Motorola Regional Sales Manager Dominic Ventura, “We appreciate the opportunity to work with Warren County. This is a ground-breaking step to take advantage of technology like this to support first responders. I believe this will be the first of many steps taken by a lot of counties to improve their systems.”

Commissioner Eggleston in support of the project expressed his pleasure at the reductions in cost for implementation stating, “Erie County recently upgraded their radio systems with no State Police integration and that project cost roughly $75 a person. In this case, we are upgrading radios systems and integrating it the State Police network for roughly $45, maybe less. That’s less than two-thirds of the cost.”

“I’d like to thank Commissioner Kafferlin, Director Todd Lake, and Deputy Director Ken McCorrison for their hard work on this project.” he continued, “They worked diligently with the State to create this unique opportunity and also negotiated the price down from six or seven million to less than two. They have helped make Warren a technological leader in emergency management.”

“I am very proud of everyone who helped pull this together,” concluded Commissioner Ben Kafferlin, “and am excited to see it implemented. This is going to make our community safer overall and help ensure the safety of our first responders by giving them state-of-the-art equipment, all while providing unprecedented integration with the State Police network. It is a first-of-its-kind arrangement and something I think Warren County can be proud of.”

The equipment will now be ordered, and the implementation should be completed by the end of the year. The financing has a deferred billing system, so the first payment will not occur until next year. The County is expected to further research financing options and grants to help reduce costs. The financing agreement is for ten years and there is no penalty for paying off the balance early and through negotiations with Motorola over the past several weeks, the interest rate on the lease was reduced from 4.15% to 3.99% further saving money.

Any questions for the Commissioners Office regarding this news story may be directed to Pam Matve, Chief Clerk, by phone at 814-728-3402 or by email at pmatve@warren-county.net.