Radio system under review

CAMBRIDGE — At the Aug. 20 meeting of the Dorchester County Council, Director of Emergency Services Evdokia Rahilly reported that work continues on improving the county’s radio system. Used by emergency responders, school buses and the department of public works, the network has been under renovation for years and the job is not yet complete.

Ms. Rahilly said she and her committee of seven other county workers have found numerous instances of poor decisions and confusion from previous managers. Council Vice President Jay Newcomb (District 1) said the job has already cost “several million dollars,” and the system is not yet fully effective. He and council President William Nichols (District 2) said the situation is one factor in the termination of several department directors earlier this year.

The county government has been working with Motorola to upgrade its communications.

Departments affected
The system comprises several departments and functions. Fire, emergency medical services, law enforcement, public works and the Board of Education’s school buses need different models of radios — hundreds of them, as well as associated equipment — to communicate with each other and the 911 Center, which is also under renovation.
Delmarva Community Transit is waiting on an official answer from the state as to whether or not the public transportation system can join the network.

Ms. Rahilly read a prepared statement during the council meeting. “No inventory information was passed on by the previous administration,” she said. The current county council began its term in early January.

While some necessary items had not been ordered, extras of some were found. For instance, 154 non-fire mics that should been returned for a credit were discovered in storage at Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport.

“These were set to be returned for a credit, which never happened,” Ms. Rahilly said. “These will be returned on the next order.”

As another example, when the inventory was being conducted, it was discovered that the wrong holsters had been ordered. These will be returned for credit, after the Chiefs’ Committee decided they did not want holsters, and would prefer spare batteries.

Under the previous administration, “spare batteries were excluded once the project got started” due to cost, Ms. Rahilly said.

As for the radios themselves, and the one-for-one switch that had been planned, the numbers don’t add up. “Numerous different counts discovered — no clear or concise numbers — none of the counts matched,” she said.

‘No project oversight’
The previous administration ordered 290 radios, but the current needs, Ms. Rahilly said, require another 28, 228 batteries, and additional items. “There was no project oversight and designs were not thought through completely,” she said.

A console for the 911 Center was accepted at delivery, she said, though it did not fit in the room where it had to be placed. The design of the center had to be modified to find room for the console.

“Players that are no longer here had responsibilities that were not satisfied,” Ms. Rahilly said. “Unfortunately, those before you weren’t privy to all aspects and are discovering needs not thought of by those no longer here.”

She said her committee was recommending that a consulting firm review the status of the new 911 Center to make sure the county is compliant with regulations. “We feel it is in the best interest of the county to have this consulting firm review as to take any liability off us,” she said.

‘Start a little war’
“I’m going to start a little war, I don’t care,” Council President William Nichols said. “I’ve been beat down since this administration came in. I accept that, I’m a big boy. But you all prove what I’ve been saying all along, and I appreciate that. It ain’t for me, it’s for the citizens of this county. You all done came in there and found a whole lot of junk that was wrong. You got boxes of radios just laying around for a long period of time, just sitting there. I was told this. Some of this I knew about, and some of it I didn’t. What was said right now really gave me a bad taste in my mouth. This is county dollars going out the durn door. You all uncovered it. And I’ll tell you what: I owe you, and the county residents owe you, a debt of gratitude. So, on my behalf, I guess I’ll speak for them, I want to thank you all for what you all did. I’ll tell you what, you all a very good group. This come out, and people start saying, ‘What the hell… excuse me, heck, happened?’ They’re not going to be happy. This is called mismanagement to the fullest.”

“People need to understand that this document is very vague and broad,” Committee Member Troi Lynn Faith said. “There is very little of a paper trail from the prior administration. We’ve had to piece it together…As we work through the process, we are constantly coming up with things that were overlooked, and were left out, and that’s something that’s more money.”

“I could say more, but I get madder about it,” Mr. Nichols said. “When it was being read off, I was getting madder by the second.”

“I will not [inaudible] beating up on me no more on this matter,” Mr. Nichols said. “Y’all inherited a mess. That’s quicksand y’all were in and y’all stepped right in. I just want to thank you.”

“But the ones who came after me on y’all, come get me now,” he said.

More money
Councilman Lenny Pfeffer (District 4) asked the committee members, “Have you guys figured out if we have documents for what we paid for?” He was told that the latest inventory shows, with a high degree of confidence, that the county has received all equipment that was ordered.

County Manager Keith Adkins said he had confirmed this. “I had [Finance] Director [Michael] Spears go back and pull the original contract, compare it to invoices received,” he said, and they corresponded with the committee’s findings.

Ms. Rahilly said having consultants review transactions would be another “check and balance” on the process, and could also uncover Motorola rebates that have not been received.

“But at some point, you all will have to come back to council and ask for more money,” Council Member Libby Nagel (District 5) said.

“Any dollar figure, preliminary?” Mr. Newcomb asked.

With accounting not yet finished, and items still to be ordered, “We’re not 100 percent sure at this time,” Mr. Adkins said.

As for an approximate completion date, Ms. Rahilly said the end of the year should give the group enough time, though she noted that unexpected issues continue to come up.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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