Lehigh Valley

Allentown could cross the Lehigh County border for 9-1-1 phone service deal

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Allentown is considering joining forces with Northampton County in offering 9-1-1 emergency phone service.

That's right, Northampton County โ€“ even though Allentown is in the middle of Lehigh County.

At the request of the administration of Mayor Ed Pawlowski, during its Wednesday night meeting City Council suspended its rules to introduce a resolution that would direct the mayor to enter into an agreement with Northampton County on behalf of the city.

If council eventually approves that resolution, the city will enter into a "memorandum of understanding" with Northampton County to develop something called Lehigh Valley First Responder Network.

Background material provided about the proposal states Lehigh County and Bethlehem also could join that network in the future.

The resolution was simply introduced Wednesday night, meaning it was read aloud by City Clerk Michael Hanlon, then immediately referred to council's public safety committee.

That was done quickly, with no discussion about the proposal by any of the six council members at the meeting and no questions from the handful of city residents who attended.

The public safety committee, which is chaired by council member Jeanette Eichenwald, plans to hold its next meeting July 16.

At those public meetings, committee members learn details about proposals from the administration and then make a recommendation back to the full council for final action.

Eichenwald did not mention at what time her committee's meeting will begin, but it will be held before the full council meets at 7 p.m. that night. So it's possible City Council will act on the 9-1-1 resolution on July 16.

The administration wants to complete the agreement with Northampton County "as soon as possible."

Allentown has provided 9-1-1 service to its own residents since 1973.

According to the proposed resolution, the city has purchased 9-1-1 telephone answering equipment that is capable of supporting regional shared services.

Northampton County is interested in joining with Allentown to reduce costs, enhance services to residents and foster "interoperability" and data communications between the two jurisdictions.

More specifically, a draft of the proposed memorandum states the city and county want to share "customer premise equipment" that will improve the delivery of 9-1-1 services "by beginning the deployment of Next Generation 911 hardware and applications in a shared environment."

The improvements in technology are intended to help the city and county 9-1-1 operations centers back each other up "in the event of network outages, equipment failures or during times of extreme call volumes."

Costs to interconnect the two 9-1-1 systems will be covered for five years by Northampton County, according to background information provided by Hanlon on the proposed agreement.

It states the city will receive major system upgrades and enhancements at no cost, plus a reduction in the cost of its yearly maintenance contract for its customer premise equipment.

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