Judge is giving Whitehall Township, Lehigh County time to settle dispute
By MICHAEL P. BUFFER
ALLENTOWN - A judge on Monday postponed a hearing on a requested injunction to change the radio communications system for the Whitehall Township police.
Lehigh County Judge William E. Ford said the hearing which began Thursday has been put on hold because the township and Lehigh County are trying to resolve the dispute.
The township filed a lawsuit in Lehigh County Court claiming the county is violating the state Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act by forcing Whitehall Township police to use a radio system plagued with dead spots.
County lawyers say state law only requires the county to answer 911 calls. They argued last week that the township canít dictate to the county how to dispatch emergencies.
On Sept. 1, dispatchers at the countyís 911 center started using a VHF-based system to communicate with Whitehall Township police. The county had used a UHF-based radio system.
Whitehall Township has requested an injunction to reinstate the UHF-based system until the VHF-based system no longer has dead zones.
On Monday, county Director of Administration Richard Klotz said the dispute may be resolved because the township may be able to use police car radios to amplify radio signals.
The township claims the new communications system frequently doesnít work when a police officer uses a portable radio inside large industrial and commercial structures. Those types of structures, such as the Lehigh Valley Mall, are prevalent throughout the township. The Lehigh Valley Mallís parking lot was the site of two shootings, one of which was fatal, in 2001.
The county says the new system should work better in April when new antenna and repeater equipment are installed at tower sites.
The county uses the VHF-based system for every municipality in the county except Allentown and Bethlehem. Those cities have their own 911 systems.
Ford said a hearing date would be rescheduled if the dispute isnít resolved soon.