By Jenny Cowan
WOOLWICH TWP. — At their meeting on Sept. 15, the Woolwich Township Committee approved a resolution to purchase a new Early Warning Lightning Detection System. The township currently has a lightning detection system in place, however, township officials report that it is over 15 years old and the technology is now outdated.
Township Administrator Jane DiBella noted, “Woolwich was the first township in Gloucester County to implement an Early Warning Lightning Detection system about 15 years ago. We are excited because this updated system has very new technology.”
The new system, called Strike Guard, uses satellites to monitor cloud and cloud-to ground lightning and sends an alert to a special receiver. DiBella noted that once the system detects lightning, an administrative computer will send alert text messages to a specific list of people, such as sports coaches, the Parks Director, and the police, who can then safely evacuate parks and athletic fields.
Because the new system will be set to detect lightning strikes up to five miles away, text messages can be sent well in advance of an approaching storm, giving sports teams and residents enough time to seek shelter. Setting the radius to five miles will focus the warnings on the parks and schools.
Parks director Natalie Matthias added, “This system is so accurate that the company guarantees zero false alarms.” The system also utilizes siren stations, which will sound a loud alarm alerting residents to dangerous lightning near the area. When the satellite detects the storm has passed the horns will sound three short blasts, alerting residents of the “all clear”.
Mayor Sam Maccarone noted that the cost of the new system, which has been proposed at $36,700, will be shared between the township and Swedesboro/Woolwich schools.
Currently, the only siren in place is at the concession stand of Locke Avenue Park. However, this will be replaced, as it is part of the outdated technology. New siren units will be installed at the Locke Avenue, High Hill, and Lake Parks, as well as the Charles Stratton School and Walter Hill School.
The school board has decided that due to the close proximity of the Margaret Clifford School to residential areas, a siren horn will not be placed on the Clifford school. The Charles Harker School is currently outside of the five mile radius, and therefore will also not have a siren installed.
The main lightning detection unit will be installed on the roof of the Woolwich Township Public Works Garage located on Woodstown Road. Matthias added, “All of the units, excluding the central unit, will be solar powered and require minimal installation.”
The Committee also approved an ordinance to add the position of Qualified Purchasing Agent to act on behalf of the township. A Qualified Purchasing agent is responsible for purchasing goods and services for the various departments and offices of the Township, for projects such as landscaping and trash/recycling.
Maccarone expressed his enthusiasm for the additional position. “This will make the township much more efficient and will increase our bid threshold.”
Currently, without a QPA, any project that costs over $17,500 is required to go out to bid. With the addition of the QPA position, the bid threshold is raised to $36,000, which means that projects costing less are able to avoid a potentially costly and lengthy bid process.
Committee Member Jonathan Fein noted that the QPA position will reduce advertising costs and time associated with the bid process, and will make the township more efficient overall. The committee was unanimous in its support for the new position.
In other resolutions, the Committee approved the resignation of a Woolwich Township Joint Land Use board member, as well as authorized the renewal of a shared service agreement with the Borough of Swedesboro for police service.
The Committee also endorsed raffle applications on behalf of the Swedesboro-Woolwich PTO, and Officer Down. The Committee also endorsed a bingo application for the Four Seasons at Weatherby.
Maccarone also mentioned plans for the township to sponsor its first annual Christmas parade and tree lighting to be held on Dec. 6. He noted that he hopes it will be the first of what will become a great tradition for the township.