Watchung Eyes Utility Windfall for Radio System
PSE&G payment could fund new radio systems for emergency responders.
Area emergency responders have a Dec. 31 deadline to convert their radio systems to a new frequency, and like many communities, Watchung Borough has been wondering where to get the money to pay for it.
At the Sept. 13 Borough Council meeting, council members hit on a plan deemed a "no brainer": use a $66,000 payment coming from PSE&G as part of the utility's Reliability Project work being undertaken to pay for the radio system conversion.
Councilman Thomas Franklin said PSE&G stipulated the uses the money could be spent on, including "the purchase of equipment and supplemental police overtime, emergency response equipment and resources" and training for fire and emergency personnel.
"It's timed perfectly—we need to do this, it's a mandate for us to do this nd it came along at the right time," Franklin said.
The payments include $50,000 for the stipulated expenses and an additional $16,000 for vegetation mediation costs, but which are not required to be used for the stipulated costs.
The borough has estimated as much as $80,000 will be required to convert the communications systems for police, fire and Rescue Squad to new frequencies. The change is part of a nearly-20 year old effort by the Federal Communication Commission to move emergency service transmissions to a 12.5 kHz frequency, from existing 25 kHz frequencies, to open more bandwidth for other uses, according to the FCC.
Mayor Gerald Mobus called the plan a "no brainer" and suggested the funds be divided between the three groups.