MECA: Radios cause static between agency chair, board

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AK9R

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From The Indianapolis Star, July 21, 2008:

Radios cause static between agency chair, board

By Jeremy Herb
jeremy.herb@indystar.com

A clash between members of a board in charge of Marion County's emergency radio system has resulted in calls to oust the chairman.

Marion County's public safety director, Scott Newman, said he wants to remove Joe Wright as chairman of the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Agency board in a dispute stemming from potentially life-threatening problems in the county's new $37 million digital police and firefighter radio system.

Newman said the five-member board needs to meet to solve MECA's problems, and Wright's refusal to hold meetings, as well as his defense of the new system, have hindered progress.

"We have serious work to do on behalf of people whose lives are at stake," said Newman, also a MECA board member. "If he wants to mince around on the kind of issues dealing with life or death, he can stay home for all I care."

Wright, mayor of Beech Grove, said he is committed to solving MECA's problems.

"It's kind of interesting when you don't go their way; they just want to throw you aside," Wright said.

Newman said he once supported Wright, and he wasn't trying to remove him just because the two disagree.

Wright did not attend Tuesday's special meeting called by Newman.

"When you've shown no inclination to even meet, and the only way of dealing with problems is refusing to meet and criticizing employees, that's it," Newman said. "We move on."

Wright and Newman have sparred over how to solve two problems with the new MECA system. One is that the digital radios conflict with firefighters' personal alarms, garbling communication. The other is that dispatchers simultaneously receive communication through an external speaker and a headphone, creating the potential for a loud, hectic environment in the dispatch room.

Under the old system, all communication came through a headset.

Wright said he did not attend Tuesday's special meeting where the dispatch problem was discussed because, in his view, it was not a legal meeting. Wright said that under MECA's city-county ordinance, special meetings can only be called by the chairman.

Newman disagreed. He said that under open meeting laws, whenever a majority of the board is present, it's considered an official meeting.

The reason Newman called a meeting, he said, was because Wright would not hold one.

Wright said he canceled the last two board meetings because the board doesn't need to meet without business to address, and that he has talked regularly with safety officials about their concerns.

"The idea it would take a meeting for this communication to happen is simply not the case," Wright said. "We don't wait for one hour a month to hear about problems."

Board members said they were left in the dark about the reasons for the cancellations.

At Tuesday's meeting, Newman said he was dismayed by a letter Wright sent to Sheriff Frank Anderson that discounted complaints made by dispatchers about the new system, manufactured by Motorola.

"It's not for Motorola to say our system is wrong," Newman said at the meeting. "It's not for us to bend and fit with the cookie-cutter concept Motorola has of what a system should look like."

Wright's removal as chairman of the MECA board would require a majority vote by the board, which Newman said he will call for at the next meeting Aug. 6.

Two of the three other board members -- Sheriff's Deputy Chief Joe McAtee and Pike Township Fire Chief Gerald George -- said they did not know how they would vote. Health and Hospital representative Patty Hebenstreit could not be reached for comment.

Wright also could be removed from the board by a vote of the mayors of the four cities -- Speedway, Lawrence, Southport and his own -- that are not part of Marion County's city-county government. Wright represents that group.
 

AK9R

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It's not my place to critcize and I suppose you could say I'm just stirring the pot. Nonetheless, I do find the make-up of the MECA board to be rather strange. The bulk of the activity on MECA is from IMPD, but they appear to have no direct representation on the board right now except for the Sheriff who really isn't in charge of IMPD. IFD also appears to have no direct representation. The board sets policy and determines how to spend money on behalf of all users of the system, but the biggest user groups don't seem to have a seat at the table.

"It's not for Motorola to say our system is wrong," Newman said at the meeting.
Yes, the customer is always right. However, one of the things I have learned in my business is that the customer pays us to be the experts. It's always tough to tell the customer that their ideas may not be the best way to run the system and that we might have a better solution. Likewise, Motorola is the expert here. They've installed systems in hundreds of dispatch centers around the country. They may just have a better handle on ways to run a dispatch center than the MECA board gives them credit for.
 

Viper43

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Newman doesn't need to be on the board, he doesn't know a radio from a console, heck, he doesn't even know the law and he was a "prosecutor". He's got no clue how a dispatch center is supposed to work and plain and simple he's unqualified to make descisions that risk lives of city /county employees or the residents of Marion Co. The mayor of BG has just as much knowledge of a dispatch centers workings or the radio system as Newman, they fire him they better fire Newman too. Newman has a habit of causing trouble on boards, especially if there is someone he doesn't like, and he's abused his powers in the past for his own agenda, sounds like he's doing the same again.... fire both or keep both, although ythe latter is a big mistake.

V
 
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A special session of the MECA Board has been called by Chairman Joe
Wright for Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 10:00am at the Hornet Park
Community Center in Room B (5245 Hornet Avenue, Beech Grove, IN 46107).
The sole purpose of this meeting is to give direction to the MECA staff
in reference to the dispatch console issue. No other matters will be
considered.
 

jerk

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A special session of the MECA Board has been called by Chairman Joe
Wright for Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 10:00am at the Hornet Park
Community Center in Room B (5245 Hornet Avenue, Beech Grove, IN 46107).
The sole purpose of this meeting is to give direction to the MECA staff
in reference to the dispatch console issue. No other matters will be
considered.
Cool, time for those (officials) with concerns to pack the meeting. But I'm sure it will be the board, the press, and maybe a few spectators... which is why they don't seem to responsive to the problems.

Oh yeah, it would be nice to the public show up too. But in my experience everybody talks, but nobody does when it would make a difference.
 

KC9NEG

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Good luck to Joe Wright in trying to limit the meeting agenda to just dispatch console issues. I bet a few atendees will have other ideas for an agenda.

Todd/Indy
 

W9NES

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Sorry but Motorola does not know anything BOB W9RXR. All theywant to do is make mone.,Look at City of Chicago as I have before but no one will believe me.Chicago was the first City on 800Mhz and the first to leave 800Mhz and they went back to VHF and UHF with no problems.WGN TV Ch 9 had a story that the City of Chicago was getting a new digital system for Fire and Police to talk to one another.It took a major High Rise Building Fire where people were killed to get this done. The will have the same problems as Indianapolis.800Mhz digital is not a good system and got Firefrighters killed on a scene of a fire in Ohio.Again As MECA TURNS, next exposide-"More problems More Money"
 

rdale

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Chicago is using 400MHz digital, not 800MHz, and not CQPSK, so I wouldn't expect scanner problems to be an issue at all. LA also uses 400MHz digital and I don't see any complaints.
 
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MECA Aug 5 meeting notes

Scott Newman left after 20 min to attend the funeral service for IFD firefighter Gary Henry. The only discussion he took part in was having the attorney modify a legal document pertaining to the bond used to finance the system. I did not see the document but it appeared Newman wanted to ensure MECA would not be subject to additional expenses in the "true-up with Motorola".

Very little discussion was held concerning the radio systems operations, other than MECA has formed a Digital Oversight Committee that will address issues with the new P25 system. The brief mention of the committee was item 10 during the meeting. Agencies are now tracking any problems they find for further investigation by the committee and Motorola.

The board approved $6000 to move the logging recorders to the Sheriff's dispatch office to provide for better security.

Additional money not to exceed $120,000 to extend the contract with IYP Solutions was authorized for the fire station alerting system, and completion, acceptance and and documentation of the P25 system.

The analog system has been turned off and Motorola is in the process of removing equipment.

$6700 was approved to buy 154 vented metal doors for dispatch console cabinets, the new CAD system and dispatch PCs are generating too much heat for the confined spaces in the wood desks.
 

SCPD

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Scott Newman left after 20 min to attend the funeral service for IFD firefighter Gary Henry. The only discussion he took part in was having the attorney modify a legal document pertaining to the bond used to finance the system. I did not see the document but it appeared Newman wanted to ensure MECA would not be subject to additional expenses in the "true-up with Motorola".

Very little discussion was held concerning the radio systems operations, other than MECA has formed a Digital Oversight Committee that will address issues with the new P25 system. The brief mention of the committee was item 10 during the meeting. Agencies are now tracking any problems they find for further investigation by the committee and Motorola.

The board approved $6000 to move the logging recorders to the Sheriff's dispatch office to provide for better security.

Additional money not to exceed $120,000 to extend the contract with IYP Solutions was authorized for the fire station alerting system, and completion, acceptance and and documentation of the P25 system.

The analog system has been turned off and Motorola is in the process of removing equipment.

$6700 was approved to buy 154 vented metal doors for dispatch console cabinets, the new CAD system and dispatch PCs are generating too much heat for the confined spaces in the wood desks.


Motorola removing Analog equipment hmmm SYS 2 is still up and running and SYS 1 is off freqs in use on new system and the plan was to leave ALL analog systems in place to goto as a back up if both digitals go down.
 
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