Grant Request

This is a request for funding for radio repeater stations for a 501C3 non profit organization.

This will outline about the Organization, about Amateur Radio, describe the system, and the need for funding.

The Philadelphia Area Repeater Association (PARA)is a non profit corporation and an IRS registered 501C3 organization that was formed over 34 years ago (1969). It was formed from a merger, first of 2 amateur radio organizations, and then several other organizations. The purpose of the organization is to fund and sponsor radio repeater stations in the Philadelphia area. "PARA" has 12 main repeater systems on 5 UHF and VHF bands using FM voice, Television, and Data, along with 6 remote receivers for the wide area system. The purpose of these repeaters is to provide reliable extended portable handheld radio and mobile communications in and around the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Amateur Radio Operators, or Hams, are licensed by the Federal Government and specifically by the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC. They are required to be tested on regulations and technical expertise including Morse code for most classes of licenses.

Amateur Radio is justified by the government over the years by its technical contributions as well as its ability to provide disaster communications in times of emergency. Ham radio has provided emergency communications in times of earthquakes, severe storms, and other natural disasters, as well as communications for "9-11". Because of the mobility and numbers of licensed operators, they can "setup" instantly for any of these occasions.

Hams normally communicate around the world on "short wave" equipment and locally on higher VHF-UHF frequencies with portable, mobile, and base station equipment. Since VHF and UHF communications is usually line of sight, repeaters are needed to extend the range of portable and mobile communications. Radio signals are normally blocked by hills, mountains, buildings, and other obstructions. "Line of sight" for a portable or mobile, can be 1/2 mile to a few miles, depending on the terrain and other objects. Hams have been using repeaters since the early 1960's.

PARA is and has been available for any disaster-emergency situation requiring emergency communications. The system is working and ready, and is tested on a daily basis by its normal use as hobby type communications. The present system operates with 4 quadrant repeaters: West Chester, Sellersville, Feasterville, and Camden, NJ and a Central repeater on Valley Forge Mountain and Worcester with remote receivers on 146.76Mhz in the 2 meter amateur band. Additionally, there are other repeaters on 52 Mhz, 3 on 224 Mhz UHF, a data packet repeater, and a television repeater in Philadelphia. It is the 2 meter repeaters that PARA wishes to update, upgrade, and expand.

"PARA" has had an alliance with Montgomery County, and more recently, has joined up with Chester County, with the move of the "94" repeater to the county tower in Westtown at the Government Services Building and at another county tower in West Chester. Members of "PARA" have been participating with Chester County and Montgomery County on drills and other public service events for many years.

"PARA"'s flagship repeater on Valley Forge Mountain on "76" was one of the first repeaters. It is also a special repeater in that it is a wide area repeater with 6 remote input receivers around the area. The original "voting system" or receiver selector was build by one of "PARA"'s own members. PARA originally funded all these systems and also maintains most of its equipment by its own members whom are all volunteers. These members donate their own time as well as membership dues to support the system. Membership dues also cover electric for sites where needed.

"PARA" operates on the cutting edge of technology where possible. Computer terminals coupled with TNC's (special radio modems) and their radios communicate using data on some systems.
Some of these systems are coupled with GPS (Global Positioning System) and they transmit "locations" which are also relayed by repeaters. Another repeater in Chestnut Hill relays television signals for hams.

PARA originally had over 600 paid members, but paid membership has dropped to about 200 at this time. There are still almost a thousand hams that use the "system" on a regular basis. Paid membership has dropped because of hard financial times for many members.

"PARA" is governed by a "Board of Directors". The Board is made up of 2 members elected from each quadrant. In addition, a president, vice president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, and treasurer are elected from the membership at large. Terms are 2 years with directors and officers elected in alternate years to maintain continuity. The Board meets quarterly with additional meetings as needed. A Technical Chairman and his committee are appointed by the Board to deal with day to day operations and maintenance. A quarterly newsletter and email are used to keep members informed. Membership meets twice a year, with elections in November.

PARA is looking for a grant so that the system can be updated with newer "commercial grade" equipment to replace older failing equipment that is 20 to 30 years old and that is not subject to interference from the close proximity of other commercial repeaters. Present equipment is "amateur grade" meaning it is not built to the same standards of commercial Motorola or GE equipment.

A recent plan, called "PARA-Link", was recently conceived by a commercial radio engineer and presented to "PARA" that would accomplish the linking of the 4 quadrant repeaters on command so there would be additional wider area coverage facilities. Additionally, there is a need to replace sections of one of our towers that was completely lost to a bad storm several years ago. We were able to obtain funding to get the 125 foot tower back up to only 85 feet.

Attached are block diagrams of the system, pictures of the sites, and equipment lists of the needed equipment. A separate list of equipment needed to implement "PARA-Link" is also attached.