Lapeer County Central Dispatch has not been slack concerning the need for a replacement system and grant processes. The process of seeking a replacement system and it’s requirements began in August of 2007 when Motorola notified us that the microwave and paging systems would no longer be supported under contract effective January 1, 2008 and repairs would be based upon parts availability. The site controllers which are the brains of the radio system would no longer be supported after July 1, 2009. The Radio Network Controller which runs the in-car police computers would not be supported after January 1, 2010. The original portable radios would not be supported after June 2010 and the original mobile radios would not be supported after September 2010.
Immediately upon notification from Motorola that the systems were starting to be obsolete LCCD began the process of hiring an independent consultant, free from any ties to any radio system company, to come in and evaluate our systems and give us a recommendation on what type of system to go to for replacement. That process started in August 2007, the same month Motorola gave us their notification.
Kimball & Associates was hired to be the consultant and came out several times to see the equipment, our operations, our needs and to meet with the members of the police, fire and EMS agencies which utilize our system. Kimball also met with the Authority and Technical Advisory Committees several times during the evaluation process. Their findings and recommendations were presented to the LCCD Authority & Technical Advisory Committees in March 2008 and then again to the County Board of Commissioners at a summer meeting in Goodland Township on July 17, 2008.
Kimball, based on their findings and our needs, recommended that LCCD seek to replace the aging system with the Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS). This was the most economically viable choice that would fulfill the needs of public safety in Lapeer County. The other choices presented inadequate coverage and safety concerns. The LCCD Technical Advisory Committee reviewed and explored the options presented by Kimball and in December 2008 came to a consensus on moving to the MPSCS as Kimball recommended.
In January 2009 a sub-committee was formed to explore funding options for the recommended replacement system. This committee included members of the LCCD Technical and Authority Board as well as officials from the County of Lapeer. Many ideas were explored and a county-wide millage was deemed the most economically feasible and fair way to fund a replacement system. This sub-committee was given a ballpark figure from Motorola on what a replacement system would cost. In June 2009 a budgetary quote was requested from Motorola and it was received in July 2009. By August 2009, LCCD brought this budgetary figure along with a business plan, coverage studies and other facts and figures to the County Board of Commissioners requesting a special election for November 2009.
There are grant monies available to public safety agencies but not all are available to LCCD. For example there is the Fire Act Grant with is exclusively available to fire departments. The COPS grant is also only for law enforcement agencies and not open to LCCD or other 9-1-1 centers. There are areas of Homeland Security money available to LCCD.
We have applied for federal grant money (stimulus), but one of the stipulations was that projects had to be “shovel ready” and ours was not at that stage at the time. We have been in direct contact with Congresswoman Millerʼs office who is watching for the next batch of available grants that we can apply for.
Grant money is distributed from the federal government to the individual states. In Michigan, that money is then sent down to regions where committeeʼs are formed to decide how to spend the money. Lapeer County is one of 14 counties in our region. Grant money is not sent directly to the county to be used for anything we want. Unfortunately, grant money is not like our individual savings accounts. No one can apply for grant money and then put it aside and save it up until a purchase is ready to be made. The rules regarding how grant money is used are very specific and do not allow for saving it up among many other things. When applying for any grant, one must have a specific item(s) already picked out, the details of it sent in with the grant application and how it is to be used. There usually comes with any approved grant request a 1 to 3 year audit trail as well.
In addition to that, grants are competitive, meaning, that all 14 counties in our region must compete with each other for money out of the same pot. Oneʼs counties needs are weighed against that of another counties needs, and point systems are developed to grade those needs. Once everything is worked out, the grant requests are then sent back to the state for approval. This is just a quick summary of how it works, and also know that these processes take months to years to complete before any county or agency would actually come into possession of their grant request. The cycles are always years behind.
No one entity can apply for such a large sum of money as to fund the needed replacement of our systems in any grant. Typically, at the federal level that kind of thing is called an ʻearmarkʼ. Earmarkʼs are not permitted in the grant process. The hundredʼs of millions of dollars available from the Department of Homeland Security can be misleading. That money is spread out across the country to the states as mentioned already and then down to the regions. Within the states and regions, the money is then divided up into subcommittee’s with different needs and objectives. Not all of the money goes to communications. For example our region is about finished up with the 2007 DHS grant for communications and it only had approximately $3 million dollars to spend between 14 counties. that is the largest sum of money to come though the region. Surcharge money is used to cover our operational costs. Currently it brings in just enough money to keep the doors open.
The grant money that has been awarded to Lapeer County over the years has gone to purchase many new hybrid radios capable of both analog and digital systems, new in-car computers for law enforcement, and bi-directional antennaʼs to bolster the MPSCS signal in the basement of the Emergency Operations Center. It has also purchased the countyʼs mobile command vehicle and equipped it with the necessary items for all disciplines of public safety to use in times of major local emergencies. All of these things have already supplanted the cost of the proposed replacement project.
Through the Emergency Management Department law enforcement obtained 44 radios in 2004 and 53 radios in 2005. The Warren Grant of 2004 garnered 19 mobile radios, 63 spare batteries, 53 remote speaker microphones, 54 chargers and 3 multi-chargers. Grants were also obtained through a regional medical committee in 2006 to purchase radios for EMS agencies (including medical first responder teams). Also in 2004 through the Department of Homeland Security, Lapeer County Central Dispatch acquired a grant for a digital mapping system along with aerial photos of the whole county for a cost of $184,440.80.
Stimulus money for 2010 was applied for through Congresswoman Millers office in February 2010 for the full amount of the replacement system, though it is not expected to receive any or all of it.