Dispatch Center Renovation

A couple of weeks ago we began the renovation of the dispatch room. We tore out the old furniture and floor on one side of the room and rebuilt it. Then moved operations from the old furniture to the new furniture and tore out and rebuilt the remaining side of the room.

We still have some minor things to finish up and once the new radio system is in place and the large gray boxes on the desktops will go away and free up a lot of work space.

Special thanks to O.S.C. our electricians, Eaton/Wright Line furniture, Data Supplies flooring, Blumerich Communications, microDATA NG9-1-1, HIS Communication, County Buildings & Grounds and our dispatchers for putting up with all the noise.

Click here for some photos.

Project Update

Site acquisition is still ongoing in some areas and near completion in others. We hope to finish getting all the sites secured in the next few months.

We do have something that can actually been seen as work being done, physically speaking. The expansion of the radio equipment room in the basement of the dispatch center is just about complete. You can see photos of it here. All that is left to do is clean and seal the concrete floor and then new equipment can start coming in.

Motorola APX 6000 Portable Radio

The Motorola APX 6000 portable radio is one of the company’s newest radios to be released. Through our migration project to the MPSCS, we will be purchasing many of these for various agencies in Lapeer County.

You can read more about the radio and see it’s technical specifications on the Motorola Solutions website.

The Lapeer City Fire Department was awarded a grant to purchase 5 of these radios and chose to get them with a green housing. The ones we will be purchasing will come with the standard black housing.

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.

Lightning Strikes Lapeer 9-1-1 Tower

Yesterday afternoon a severe thunderstorm passed through Lapeer County and early on a bolt of lightning is believed to have struck the tower behind the 9-1-1 Center in Lapeer. A dispatcher witnessed an arch of electricity move from one of the stand-off antennas to a leg of the tower structure. The dispatcher also saw the tower glowing briefly. Subsequently, this lightning strike temporarily knocked out all communications in the center including sending the voice radio system into failsoft.

What is failsoft?

If the trunking system loses its control channel or has certain other failures, it is no longer able to operate in the trunking mode. So instead of going into a condition that stops all communication, the system enters Failsoft. In this state all transmitters (channels) turn on and operate in a ‘conventional’ repeater mode. The subscriber radios are able to recognize this state and switch to a predetermined frequency (one of the trunk system frequencies, but not the control channel frequency) depending on their selected talkgroup. In most systems several talkgroups will share a frequency. Some talkgroups may not be assigned a failsoft frequency and these talkgroups will cease to operate during the failsoft period. If a particular failsoft frequency has also failed, the talkgroups assigned to that frequency will also be off the air during failsoft.

 

The system quickly recovered and went back into normal operation. However, one system was unable to recover and that is the part of the paging system which dispatch’s EMS crews for Lapeer County EMS.

The old Zetron unit which runs the alpha-numeric pagers for Lapeer County EMS is no longer communicating with the paging servers. Several attempts to reset the unit and even change paging servers were unsuccessful. Another problem is that this unit has gone off of the Motorola maintenance contract several years ago. We do have replacement parts on hand for this unit, but working on it will cost the center time and labor. We will be contacting Zetron this morning to seek their assistance in diagnosing the problem and programming spare boards to be put into service.

As of yesterday, all bases of Lapeer County EMS (Imlay City, North Branch and two in Lapeer City) are operating on radio and telephone standby until further notice. It is not known when or even if this system can be repaired.

Fire department paging was unaffected and is in normal operation.

Additionally, the wireless communication link to Metamora Police which runs their AICS and Internet services went down during the lightning strike.

Further updates will be posted when information is available.

9-1-1 Replacement Process & Grant Activities

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.

2010 Election Campaign

Lapeer County 9-1-1 will be campaigning throughout 2010 leading up to the November general election in an effort to secure voter approval for a replacement of it’s radio system and other antiquated systems.

These systems are critical to the operation of public safety in Lapeer County. They are life-lines for the citizens and for law enforcement, fire service and EMS personnel. On average Lapeer County 9-1-1 handles over 112,000 emergency and non-emergency calls for service annually.

This blog will be utilized to assist in disseminating information to the public about the critical need for continued operations and replacement needs.