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Commissioners Approve Radio Assessment

February 29, 2024

WARREN, Pa. – Issues of public safety dominated the conversation at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Warren County Commissioners.

Lanae Shubert, of Tiona, asked the board during the public comment portion of its meeting what could be done to provide warning of tornadoes and other severe weather to county residents whose municipalities have no warning sirens. It was last year, Shubert said, that something at least like a tornado went through near her home and that she had no forewarning due to the lack of municipal infrastructure to warn those living there.

Where she lives, Shubert told the commissioners, there is spotty cellular service and many older neighbors either without internet service or without the ability to check online sources to determine whether a weather emergency were occurring.

Public Safety Director Ken McCorrison addressed Shubert’s concerns, saying that while what went through Shubert’s backyard in Tiona was not to his knowledge officially determined to be a tornado, there are several sirens to warn of one throughout the county. However, he said, it’s each municipality’s responsibility to install and maintain such infrastructure and that, while many of the county’s municipalities have either added sirens or looked into adding them to compliment the county’s warning system, not all have.

McCorrison suggested that in areas where cellular data is available, even in the absence of internet service, residents could sign up for the alerts through ReadyPA and signing up for alerts under the “Be Informed” tab. He also advised that Public Safety will be holding a Severe Weather Week in April, with severe weather drills to be held in conjunction with the Warren County School District and a full public information campaign to roll out beforehand. He encouraged Shubert and anyone else interested to stay tuned for more information as that event gets closer.

Also Wednesday, the board unanimously agreed to contract with Capital Area Communications, of Harrisburg, to assess the state of local public safety infrastructure. The goal for the project is to determine the state of the county’s public safety radio system itself, as well as the tower sites that support it, to determine what needs to be updated and improved.

“Money will be coming from a Strategic Management Planning grant to cover the cost of this (assessment),” McCorrison told commissioners.

The assessment, he said, “will include a portion of the original radio agreement that was cut out, a master plan going forward of what we need to update our paging system,” and ideas to fill in coverage gaps throughout the county.

Infrastructure in Grand Valley that was once placed within the county to address some of those coverage gaps, he also told commissioners, has become obsolete. The Grand Valley VFD proposed purchasing a radio tower that sits on their property from the county for $1. When the county switched to its new radio system, McCorrison told commissioners, the coverage gaps it once addressed no longer exist. Included in the purchase agreement, he went on, are the tower, the fencing, and all related structures at the site.

“It’s been sitting unused for the better part of two years,” McCorrison said.

Commissioner Tricia Durbin was “happy to make that motion,” she said, given that the county neither utilizes the tower or site any longer, “nor could we.”

The commissioners also approved a modification to its agreement with the ANF for Sheriff’s deputy availability for patrols. While deputies are already available to the ANF to cover patrols, Commissioner Ken Klakamp said, modifications to allow for an increased rate and updated primary Sheriff’s Department contacts among other things.

Renewal of the county’s Employee Assistance Program the appointment of James Grosch to serve on the county’s Land Bank Authority, and the transition to a cloud-based financial software solution were also approved Wednesday.

The next commissioners meeting will be held Wednesday, March 13 at noon.

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