Thursday, March 25, 2010

Emergency 911 Issues, Google Fiber and other County Board action

I feel like I created this blog at the calmest time for Ingham County in a while! Over the last 6 months, we have resolved severe budget deficits and had many cuts. We don’t start considering our next budget, though, until late summer. For now, life on the Boards is a little less crazy.

This week, our full Board of Commissioners met. We had very little controversial on the agenda. We do most of our major work (amendments, debate, etc) in committees and our Board meetings are normally calm and cordial.

The City of Lansing sent us a letter requesting that the county take legal action against M/A-Com. The background on this….About 7 years ago, the county revamped its emergency 911 dispatch system. If you live in Ingham County, you pay a dedicated millage for 911 service, and that money was used for the new 911 system. We had two major bidders – M/A-Com and Motorola. The State Police came in late with a bid as well, but it was way too expensive. After many meetings and much debate, the County Board of Commissioners voted to accept the M/A-Com proposal, which was the recommendation from the to us by our 911 Advisory Committee (made up of fire and police chiefs from the communities in the county, as well as our Sheriff).

The system was put into place and all was seemingly well. Officers throughout the county (community and county) were given new digital dispatch radios to call in emergencies (replacing the old analog ones), and the dispatch centers in Lansing and East Lansing had upgraded equipment. About 2 or 3 years later, though, we found out that officers using these new digital radios in the southwest area of Lansing were having problems. Calls were not going through and were being dropped. They complained to us and we complained to M/A-Com. We found out that several buildings in the area were not allowing for signal penetration. The contract required that 95% or so of the calls made on the radios had to go through, and this was happening county-wide. It was not happening in the southwest Lansing area, though.

So after extreme tensions and negotiations, the County Board negotiated a settlement where we paid for special devices to boost the signal in the buildings in the southwest Lansing area, and M/A-Com agreed to provide certain services for free.

The City of Lansing is upset that they had to dedicate additional staff and resources to this area because the radios weren’t working. They have requested that the County take legal action against M/A-Com. Our Controller and Board Chair and Law Enforcement committee will review our options.

Otherwise, we passed a resolution supporting the Google Fiber effort. Google is offering a super high-speed product called Google Fiber to a few communities throughout the country. Lansing/East Lansing is trying to become one of those served communities. Ingham County, of course, supports this effort.

We also accepted several Homeland Security funds from the federal government for equipment and training.

To see the full agenda, click here.

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