Project Update

We have started paying part of the system costs to Motorola and microDATA with the money received from the bonds. $3,896,664.90 has been paid to Motorola and $147,821.47 went to microDATA. microDATA is the company we are getting our NG9-1-1 telephone system from.

The site acquisition is still ongoing and lease agreements and technical details of each site have been sent to the various places where sites are going in. Approvals for all of them are expected to come along in the next couple of months.

The Lapeer County Road Commission will be assisting us with the land development needed at the Burnside site. They’ll be able to do the work at a fraction of the cost that a hired contractor would charge.

We have a number of change orders already in the project and they currently amount to a savings of about $56K. Plus we found that we can reuse some parts of the current system in the new one thus saving another estimated $60K. These parts are called TRAK 9100’s and work to synchronize the tower sites together. These are fairly new as we had to replace an older component just a few years ago with them.

It is looking like we will light up the voice and paging systems with 7 sites initially and then bring on the remaining two paging sites shortly thereafter. This is due to the reuse of existing shelters and other things from the current system. Once the new system is online and the old one offline, we can start moving things around for the last two sites. This won’t occur until late in 2012 as it looks right now. We will go from 3 voice/paging sites to 7 voice/paging sites then finally, 7 voice and 9 paging sites when completed.

Renovation of the dispatch room is slated for this fall and the flooring we chose is not only from an American company, but a Michigan-based company out of Grand Rapids. We feel good about this choice in that we will be putting $17,500 back into the Michigan economy.

Project Update

Bonds for the millage were secured last week at a great interest rate of 3.043% over the life of the bond. The good rate is due in part to Lapeer County’s AA rating. The transfer of money should take place next week.

Site procurement is still ongoing. Agreements have been sent out to some of the localities along with site plans and equipment lists for their approval. Negotiations for the North Branch site are ongoing.

Motorola and the MPSCS will be reviewing all of the plans and equipment lists in the next two weeks and after that, they will be presented to the County for approval. Once that is done and the sites are secured with local agreements, construction can begin.

A vendor has been selected to provide flooring for the dispatch center which will soon be brought to the Authority Board and County Board of Commissioners for approval. If approved, the flooring will be from not only an American company, but a Michigan company based out of Grand Rapids. The flooring initially proposed to us is produced in Switzerland. We would be very happy to make our flooring purchase from the Grand Rapids company where the investment will support America and Michigan.

We will also be adding to the Lapeer tower a much needed antenna for the local HAM operators who assist public safety during exercises and disasters.

Off topic:
We were able to work with our CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) vendor on the cost of our software maintenance agreement and they agreed to grant us 10% off of our CAD and Mobile solutions and 25% off our Fire RMS (Records Management System). This presents the 9-1-1 center with a significant savings on our contracts and is very helpful in these tough economic times.

February Site Walks

This week the project managers from Lapeer County 9-1-1 and Motorola along with a team of Motorola, Pyramid Network Services LLC and Infinigy Engineering & Surveying engineers went to visit all the sites that have been previously chosen to bring needed coverage to the county. Also in attendance were technicians from the state MPSCS who will also work closely with the Motorola and county teams.

Detailed site drawings were ether taken or acquired from past surveys for all sites. Photographs were taken and discussions on equipment, placement, layout and construction also occurred. Plans are beginning to form on how everything will be put together and how the cutover from the old system to the new system will happen.

According to our plans we will have 9 VHF paging sites and 7 800MHz voice sites. The entire system will be simulcast and linked together via microwave.

  • Columbiaville water tank: VHF pagng with PTP microwave
  • A site in North Branch: VHF paging with PTP microwave
  • MPSCS site 3802: VHF paging and 800MHz voice with microwave
  • A site on Deanville Road east of Van Dyke (Lapeer County Road Commission property): VHF paging and 800MHz voice with microwave
  • Existing site at Lapeer County Central Dispatch (Prime Site): VHF paging and 800MHz voice with microwave
  • Existing site in the Imlay City industrial park: VHF paging and 800MHz voice with microwave
  • A site in Hadley Township on Fox Lake Road west of Hadley Road: VHF paging and 800MHz voice with microwave
  • Metamora Village water tank: VHF paging and 800MHz voice with microwave
  • Almont Village water tank: VHF paging and 800MHz voice with microwave
  • There will also be a microwave link to MPSCS 2102 in Addison Township, Oakland County to loop some of the other sites back around to the prime site. This was chosen because microwave path studies predicted some unacceptable path fading in some of the other path scenarios.

Some equipment and shelters will be either converted or moved from one location to another for reuse.

Full site drawings will be worked up following these site walks with equipment considerations included in them. They should be ready for review by the County and MPSCS by April. Speaking only preliminarily, we could begin to turn dirt by late spring to early summer.

Weekly meetings or teleconferences will begin next week between the County and Motorola to ensure the workflow moves along and to keep each other updated on progress and work out any issues that will arise.

Inside the prime site radio room.

Microwave and channel bank equipment at the prime site.
Columbiaville water tank

What are other counties using?

As Lapeer County seeks to make a move to join the MPSCS, several of our neighbor’s have already made the move.

Macomb, St. Clair, Saginaw, Shiawassee & Genesee Counties have already migrated to the MPSCS leaving behind their antiquated analog systems. Bay County is in the process of making the switch to the MPSCS while Tuscola, Sanilac and Huron Counties are seeking to move to the MPSCS just as Lapeer County is.

Oakland County started to build their own digital radio system in 2002 and due to the many PSAPs in the county and the original company they hired to build their system being bought out a couple of times, the system is not yet fully online.

Just as cell phones and television have changed to digital so are the commercial manufacturers of public safety radio systems. Even broadcast radio is starting to change to digital with the option of HD radio.

As mentioned in another post, the need for the radio system isn’t a matter of “going digital,” but rather “in need of replacement.” A digital system is just what is available on the market now.

As certain components are no longer supported by the manufacturer, parts will be difficult at times to come by. Those parts that can be found aren’t new parts; they’re used and not even refurbished in many cases. Lapeer County received several vehicle radio modems from Saginaw County for free recently and they are older models than the ones Lapeer is using. Because they’re older than our system, we’ve secured a grant to purchase a firmware upgrade to bring them to the version we’re using. Once that is finished, we’ll test the VRM’s to see which ones will work and which ones won’t. The working ones will be handed over to departments in Lapeer County that have need of them.

As the need for parts comes along, the more that ends up breaking down, the more out of pocket expenses we’ll incur. There will come a point that the system will start to “nickel & dime us to death.”

It has been said that 95% of 9-1-1 centers are analog based. While that is likely true, those analog systems are getting very old just as Lapeer County’s is. When those centers go to replace their analog systems, they will be purchasing a digital one.

Digital System or Replacement System?

There is a lot of concern that the bid for a new system at Lapeer County 9-1-1 was for the purpose of going digital. This is not the case at all. Digital is quite irrelevant in the matter as the need is for a replacement radio system. A digital system was chosen for two reasons. Number 1, no manufacturer builds analog public safety systems anymore. Number 2, the MPSCS was chosen as the most economical and safe choice and it just happens to be a digital system.

The MPSCS is a state-wide public safety radio system in Michigan and serves over 50,000 users. The level of interoperability provided by this system is unmatched world-wide. It only makes sense to join the system to have that level of interoperability available. As our society becomes less localized and more regional, we need to be able to communicate with our neighboring counties as we often send our responders outside our county to assist other agencies in major events.

The current 14 year old radio system is now beyond it’s anticipated life expectancy and the major component systems of it are no longer being supported by the manufacturer. If these components break down, the manufacturer cannot guarantee that new parts will be available. If the parts happen to be available, they are not covered under the maintenance contract and the cost of the parts will be “out of pocket”. If the manufacturer doesn’t have the parts available, Lapeer County 9-1-1 must search for third-party companies who sell the parts as used/refurbished.