(March 15, 2019) As part of Ocean City’s continuing upgrade of emergency communications, the Ocean City Council on Tuesday approved buying the Ocean City Fire Department new digital pagers that will work with the public safety radio system upgrade anticipated for completion this summer.
Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald asked for permission to procure 80 Unication model G4 pagers for the department to coincide with the system’s other improvements.
The city in May 2016, entered into a contract with Eastern Communications to revamp its radio system to the P-25 digital standard.
“We are still undergoing that upgrade,” Theobald said.
He said when the contact was signed three years ago, paging technology had to enter the digital age.
“Unfortunately, at the time, the paging component to alert the fire department was not available … it hadn’t been developed,” he said. “In the last 60 days a company has come out with a digital pager which is compatible to our radio system.”
Theobald said the equipment had been vetted by Electronics Division Manager Bob Dimaio.
“It worked flawlessly,” he said.
Originally, the cost of 80 pagers was pegged at about $50,000, Theobald said, but the quotes from a trio of vendors showed that number to be high.
“I have them back today and the total comes out to somewhere roughly a little over $43,600,” he said. “They will be the first batch that will go out to the fire department, with the rest of the analog pagers that are existing phased out over the course of budget years.”
Councilman Mark Paddack asked about further pager purchases after this first batch.
“How many more do you project in the future?” he said.
Theobald said compiling an inventory of existing analog pagers is in the works but he estimated the tally at a few hundred.
Paddack also sought clarity regarding the advantages of digital versus analog pagers.
Since both elements are operated on the P-25 digital standard, Theobald said anywhere the radio functions the pager would follow suit.
“This will actually increase how far the pager will work,” he said. “That’s something that we had an issue with before with dead spots.”
Councilman Tony DeLuca asked if the equipment cost would be funded through a Worcester County grant.
Budget Manager Jennie Knapp confirmed non-allocated county funds would cover the unbudgeted purchase.
“This is actually the grant that they give us in lieu of tax differential and it was more than I had put in the budget,” she said. “I always budget what they gave us the year before and they actually increased it this year.”
Councilman John Gehrig inquired about the pagers’ longevity while also noting the manufacturer is offering a 30 percent discount for purchases prior to March 31.
Theobald said the equipment comes with a five-year warranty, but that they typically last far longer.
“In theory, as long as the radio system is running and the pager isn’t damaged, it should continue to operate,” he said. “That’s why it was time-sensitive that it come before you today [because] we’re saving a fair amount of money by buying them before March 31.”
Councilman Matt James’ motion to approve allocating up to $44,000 for pagers was approved unanimously.