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L.A. communications system faces more challenges

It's back to the drawing board for a network that would link fire and police departments.

August 26, 2012|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com

A new communications system that would link fire and police departments throughout L.A. County has been stymied by several setbacks recently. These include scrapping a second request for contract proposals, federal legislation that’s put on hold the purchase of $70-million worth of equipment, and delays that have forced the return of millions of dollars in federal grants.

The result: not one of the 255 antennas planned for the system has been installed.

Officials say the system would be vital during a regional emergency such as an earthquake, but after years of wrangling, the project appears to be back on the drawing board.

Earlier this month, the authority for the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System had to drop a second request for proposals because recent federal legislation ordered it to halt purchases of certain types of equipment and instead wait for a nationwide communications system to make sure all equipment is compatible.

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The news came after the authority had already entered negotiations on two proposals.

“This is the most horrible possible time,” said Patrick Mallon, executive director of the L.A. County authority.

He wouldn’t release any cost information from the second request because a third is planned.

“We don’t want to compromise the procurement process,” Mallon said.

The first request for proposals was canceled in July 2011 when concerns arose that it violated the state construction code because one company was going to design and build the project, Mallon said. Since then, state lawmakers passed legislation allowing the county to contract with only one company.

Moving forward, work will proceed in phases, with prep work on the antenna sites kicking off first. The antennas usually will be attached to fire and police buildings, as well as other government-owned structures, Mallon said.

In some cases, antennas will be attached to so-called monopoles that will be no higher than 70 feet, he added.

Meanwhile, the L.A. County system has also been dogged by funding problems. Earlier this year, the authority had to return about $6.5 million from the 2008 Homeland Security program because of missed spending deadlines. It was able to spend about $303,000 of the 2008 funds on consulting fees and part of Mallon’s salary.

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