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Chester County Press

Group pitches emergency radio station concept to township board

08/13/2014 01:17PM ● By Lev

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

In an emergency – one that may involve a severe weather alert or another occurrence that stops local townships in their tracks – residents of the West Grove and Avondale areas may soon be able to tune into an emergency radio station that will give them the information they need.

At the London Grove Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 6, Chuck Freese, the township's emergency management coordinator, introduced the idea of an emergency AM radio station which would be a centralized location for local townships and municipalities to air information in emergencies. No firm timetable for the start of the station has been set.

Freese said that the station will give residents directions during evacuations; bridge and road closures; power outages; severe traffic issues; as well as the locations of emergency shelters. The station will be situated at the base of the West Grove water tower, and will reach people living within a seven-mile radius of the tower. Information will be supplied to the station by townships, municipalities and utility companies.

The concept is being introduced by Avon Grove Regional Emergency Management (AGREM), which provides emergency support for the boroughs of Avondale and West Grove, and the nearby townships of Penn, New London, Franklin, and London Britain. Begun in 1999 to explore how local municipalities would be able to respond to the arrival of the year 2000, the group changed from a task force to a regular working group, whose focus now reflects exploring solutions to emergency situations such as terrorism, major hurricanes and storms, oil spills and potential school shootings.

“We thought that type of venue would be a good thing to put in front of the Avon Grove folks, to broadcast a continuous loop of municipal information, both in times of peace and in times of duress,” Freese said.

Freese said that he and fellow AGREM members are visiting other municipalities to get one-time funding that will put the station on the air and pay for initial operating costs. He requested a contribution of $7,500 from the township – approximately $1 for every township resident. Freese said that AGREM will also approach Chester County Water Authority, the Colonial Pipeline, PECO and several other major utility entities in Chester County as possible sources of funding.

AGREM received a temporary license from the FCC on June 11 and conducted a 30-day test from the top of the tower. Freese said that the test revealed that there was more than enough power to provide coverage to the entire township.

Without committing to a monetary contribution, the board agreed to support the concept. Pickel asked Freese to allow the board a month to determine potential sources and amounts for the contribution.

In other business, township revenues for the month of July totaled $260,000, an increase of $100,000 from the month before. The township's earned income tax plan earned $90,000 for the month, while expenses totaled $360,000 for July, an increase of $130,000 from June. The township also distributed a check in the amount of $38,717.45 to the Heathland Hospitality Group to pay for losses incurred at the Inniscrone Golf Course.

Supervisor Robert Weir said that the township's board will meet with representatives of local emergency providers on Aug. 11 to discuss the closing of the small bridge on State Road near Indian Run Road. Owned by the county, the bridge is scheduled to be shut down indefinitely in the near future, due to the need for structural repairs.

The board agreed to sign a letter of intent that will link the township to the study being conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development to establish a regional police force that would include the Kennett Township, New Garden and Kennett Borough police departments.

Referring to recent articles in the Chester County Press, board chairman Mike Pickel said, “I've read both articles and asked the board if they were OK with me reaching out to [New Garden Township police chief Gerald] Simpson to ask about the possibility of contacting these three municipalities in order to have London Grove Township join in on this study,” Pickel said. “The three municipalities agreed unanimously. It allows us to be a part of the study, and gives us data if we make the decision to continue on."

Trooper Kelly Cruz, of the Pennsylvania State Police Avondale barracks, reported that he has seen reduced numbers in nearly every area crime report in recent months. There has been an increase in property thefts in the township – 22 in the last three months, he said.

Cruz advised that in an emergency, township residents should contact the State Police directly at 610-268-2022, and not call 911. “That person who answers the phone is right in front of a microphone, to the car,” he said. “When you dial 911, it goes to the 911 center, and they have to determine who the [police force] will be. They need to know your township, your county. Eventually, they get you to us, but [in an emergency], a minute is a long time.”

The board gave approval to the closure of State Road from the Avon Grove Charter School to the Avon Grove High School on Sept. 13 beginning at 11 a.m., so that the high school can hold its annual Homecoming Day parade at that time along the route.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].