Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5, and local officials and first-responders said Newton, Sparta, Hardyston and Andover will receive $1.3 million in federal funds to purchase updated communications systems.
The technology will be used to answer 9-1-1 calls and to ensure that emergency response agencies can talk to callers and first-responders quickly and easily.
The four towns have shared emergency dispatch services and provide mutual aid to their communities.
Many of the 9-1-1 communications systems in Sussex County are in dire need of modernization and tend to have gaps in coverage because of the large geographical area that local first-responders must cover, Gottheimer said. For example, it can be a 15- to 18-mile distance between Andover and Hardyston.
The money will be used for:
• Next-generation 9-1-1 technology to allow emergency dispatchers to initiate text messaging with callers.
• Technology that allows callers to send videos to the dispatcher so that information can be relayed to first-responders before arriving at a scene. It also helps better pinpoint location.
“Communication and speed are key during an emergency, and our technological systems need to be updated to serve Sussex County families,” said Gottheimer, a member of the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.
“Without a fully functioning, next-generation central system to respond to 9-1-1 calls, our families’ lives would be put at risk. This new bipartisan investment is critical to boosting the response capabilities of our public safety agencies in Newton, Sparta, Hardyston and Andover.”
The funds also help the towns save tax dollars because they don’t have to pay for the system out of their local budgets or by issuing bonds, he said. “That directly saves taxpayers money.”
Newton Police Chief Steven Van Nieuwland said, “On behalf of Chief (Eric) Danielson (of Andover), Chief (Scott) Lobban (of Hardyston), Chief (Jeff) McCarrick (of Sparta) and myself, I want to thank Congressman Gottheimer and his staff for collaborating on this grant. ... This equipment will provide redundancy and interoperability with other 9-1-1 dispatch agencies in the event of a large-scale emergency.”
Newton Mayor Michelle Teets, who worked as a part-time 9-1-1 operator for about 28 years, said communication is the key to saving lives and to the safety of first-responders.
“It is very much needed in our rural area,” she said in thanking Gottheimer.
He credited local officials and police and fire chiefs with helping to win the federal grant. “We all worked together on this. This was a team effort.”