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Old 12-21-2013, 2:55 PM
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Smile York Co. asks for $27 Million for new system

Forwarded from a committee member.. this is the Executive Directors letter to the Public Safety entities in York County..

By now you may have heard, or read about the actions that the county commissioners took at their meeting yesterday with regard to approving the following three (3) contracts associated with a radio and microwave systems migration and/or upgrade:
1. Harris Corporation Contract - radio
2. Alcatel-Lucent Contract - microwave
3. SSC-Consulting Contract (Professional Consulting Services from Mike Browne & Kevin Desmond’s company)

I wanted to provide you with some initial background regarding these contracts via email which will be followed up in the coming months with more detailed information by way of presentations and hands-on new radio equipment demonstrations to be held during one of your scheduled monthly association meetings by the county, the vendor and our consultants.

By way of a refresher, on February 16, 2012 the U.S. Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act. As is often the case, embedded in this Act was an unrelated section (6103) that requires vacating the use of T Band by public safety agencies nationwide. This action was all part of Congress’s response to long standing efforts on the part of national public safety organizations, APCO and NENA, to have 700MHz spectrum (referred to as D Block) set aside and released for strictly public safety 2-way radio communications. It wasn’t until the release of the report by the 911 Commission in 2003 that addressed, among other things, the significant failings of radio communications among first responders during the events of September 11, 2001 that Congress got serious about addressing the wireless communications of public safety agencies all across the country. Unfortunately at the 11th hour, in an effort to appease the telecommunications industry who was widely using the 700MHz spectrum for digital television broadcasting, language was inserted into this law requiring current public safety users of the 500-512MHz spectrum (commonly referred to as T Band) to vacate this radio spectrum use so that it could later be auctioned off to the broadcast industry for their digital television use.

As soon as I became aware of this legislation and its potential impact on York County, I immediately put together a summary document for the county commissioners which was followed up by a face-to-face meeting with them in March 2012. This began the long process of my doing everything I could, from speaking with resident experts in the telecommunications industry such as vendors, consultants, FCC representatives, etc. to keep as informed and personally active as I could on this issue that, from all appearances, was going to have a significant impact on our currently used T Band radio system. On May 2, 2012 I sent a letter to then FCC Chairman Genachowski summarizing what effect this legislation may ultimately have on York County, to which I never received a response. I also became an active member of the NPSTC T Band Work Group, a group that was tasked by NPSTC organization to research and then issue a White Paper report on the suspected overall impact that this legislation would have on several public safety entities all across the county, some of which included major metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Los Angeles.

I continued to stay active in this effort and remain in constant contact with industry experts as to the status of this legislation and FCC’s response, if any, and not withstanding some comments and opinions that I have received from some individuals who have not been nearly as involved as I have on this issue, that this issue is going to go away or be reversed by Congress, this is not what the knowledgeable experts are advising me. To that end, the county entered into a contract with a professional FCC licensing consulting firm in September of this year for the purpose of assisting the county in identifying and acquiring sufficient licenses in the 700MHz band to accommodate our public safety communications needs for a transition off of our current T Band System. Also, for the past year I have been working with Harris Corporation and Alcatel-lucent, our microwave vendor, in the development of a migration and upgrade plan proposal that would not only transition us to a new 700MHz system but at the same time upgrade and provide additional redundancy assurance for our current microwave system.

The directive that was given to Harris Corporation before they put pencil to paper to develop a 700MHz radio system was that the final design proposal must be equal to or better than what our current T Band system provides. Additionally, it also needed to address areas in the county that we have learned over time are still somewhat challenged coverage areas. The new design that was approved as a part of Harris’s Contract offering at yesterday’s commissioners’ meeting included the use of our current system sites as well as three (3) additional sites being added that would improve coverage in the following areas:
Ø East Manchester Township Gut Road Area
Ø Lower Chanceford Area
Ø Spring Valley Park Area

In addition, the new technology advancements in the radios and tower site antennas as well as the differences in the FCC regulations on 700MHZ as opposed to the current T Band system, will allow for more use of better and higher power omni antennas instead of current directional which will also improve coverage from the existing sites we have today. Additionally, the new end user radios, especially the portable radios, do a much better job of improved audio quality and handling the handing off of radio reception from site-to-site and filtration of background noise and interference.

Having said all of this, it is important to remember that this is still wireless technology and even though the standard of 95-95 portable in street and designated in-building coverage, which we currently exceed, remains unchanged, this will never be a system that provides 100% coverage so there will still be those areas, that two-way radio communications, especially portable based may remain to be a challenge.

One other area that I know will be of great concern to your agencies as well as your local elected officials is that of “who is going to pay for the complete replacement of radio equipment that you have today” since the current 500-512 MHz radios you have will not work on the new 700MHz system. To that end, I have advised the Board of Commissioners, that since this matter as fallen upon us without any warning or idea of it happening, and given the fact that our local agencies made a significant financial investment for equipment on our new system, that it is my recommendation that the County provide a one-for-one replacement of the end user radios at no cost to any of our public safety end users that are currently authorized on our public safety radio system. While initial indications from the Board is that they tend to agree with my recommendation, this final decision has not yet been made.

We will continue to do our due diligence and make our very best effort as this project continues to make certain that our vendors provide a high quality and reliable solution. You can be assured that the County and our consultant will do our very best to ensure that this occurs.

I will continue to provide updates to all of you as this project unfolds. Currently the project schedule timeline is as follows:

March 2014 the Harris and Alcatel-Lucent project begins with a 41 month project schedule which make the system acceptance date to occur at the end of July 2017. More details on stages of this timeline will be forthcoming as we begin this process.

Thank you, in advance, for your understanding and cooperation in this most important and costly endeavor.
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