Looking for additional shared services and already facing a lack of police dispatchers on staff, River Edge officials began discussing the possibility of utilizing the Bergen County system in Mahwah on Monday night.
The Public Safety Operation Center (PSOC) is capable of providing around the clock coverage of 911, police, fire and emergency medical services calls on a unified radio system through its 38 full-time and 10 per-diem employees.
"The trunked radio system makes better use of the frequencies," County Police Chief Brian Higgins said. "We're using 800 frequencies in Bergen County and that is not a very efficient system."
A trunked radio system is a computer-controlled two-way radio system that allows a large group of users to share a handful of radio frequency channels together. The users are placed together into a "talkgroup", primarily based on location, and when one user needs a frequency, the computer system located an open channel for them.
"The upside to not using as many frequencies is that the messages come through clearer," Higgins said. "The system is also completely encrypted as well, although there are still some dead spots in the County."
Currently the borough is down one part-time dispatcher and one substitute dispatcher which has resulted in the current employees picking up additional shifts or the police department going without a dispatcher at the front desk for several hours, according to Police Chief Thomas Cariddi.
One thing that may push River Edge officials to seriously consider the move to the County facility is Higgins and County Administrator Edward Trawinski's goal to make the entire operation free of charge to municipalities by 2015.
"We are about to announce a phase-in timeline for the start of the 2013 fourth quarter," Trawinski said." For those municipalities that have already joined we will no longer change for 911 calls and depending on what other towns join, by the beginning of 2014 there will be no charge to anyone for 911 calls."
Trawinski further stated that the second phase, beginning halfway through 2014 into 2015 would be to offer county-wide dispatcher services for fire and EMS at no cost. The final stage, expected to take affect by 2015-2016 is to offer all dispatch services for towns with less than 25,000 residents at no cost.
"To address residential fears about how we can dispatch to Lyndhurst from Mahwah is to create a secondary location in Paramus and a tertiary facility in East Rutherford," Trawinski said. "In the short term if you wanted to join now it would be on a fee basis but the process usually takes 12 to 15 months and by then you would be in line to start 911 services on a no-cost basis."
The county currently provides full emergency call and dispatching services for residents in 11 towns including Lodi, Ridgefield, Demarest, and Leonia. Approximately 10 municipalities, such as Bogota and Ridgefield Park only utilize the County's 911 services.
Capt. Mark Lepinski, communications director and 911 coordinator for the Bergen County Police Department recommended that the borough coordinate a commitee comprised of borough administrators, the governing body and representatives from the police, fire and ambulance departments to tour the Mahwah center.
River Edge Mayor Sandy Moscaritolo stated that the borough's Shared Services Committee which is comprised of Councilmembers Kathleen Murphy, Ed Mignone and Alphonse Bartelloni will tour the Mahwah facility in the future.