New York State gives company 45 days to fix problems

Published 8 September 2008

New York State awarded M/A Com a contract for building the infrastructure for the statewide wireless network for first responders; the contract was to be completed by December 2006; state comptroller office, citing the delay and nearly 20 other deficiencies, gives company 45 days to fix problem or see its contract revoked

A new communications system for first-line responders is creating only static for New York State officials. The vendor — Lowell, Massachusetts-based M/A-COM — responsible for building the infrastructure for the statewide wireless network, has been given forty-five days by the state to fix all problems or else the state will scrap its contract with the company. The network was to be a radio network that first responders could use to communicate with full interoperability during emergencies and day-to-day operations.

Interoperability — direct communications with other public safety responders — is not currently available to first responders during emergencies. Public safety officials can only communicate with each other by first going through a dispatch center that allows emergency responders to communicate directly.

The Observer’s Dennis Phillips writes that the SWN contract required M/A-COM to develop and operate a regional implementation plan, which was originally supposed to be completed by 19 December 2006, to make the network operational in Erie and Chautauqua counties as part of the primary regional build-out. The state said its decision to issue the default letter was based upon several factors including internal testing, independent reports from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and a private independent verification and validation firm, as well as operational tests performed by first responders in the field.

In the default letter, the state identifies nineteen significant contractual deficiencies. These problems include equipment failures, unreliable emergency call modes, inconsistent in-building coverage, an absence of quality assurance processes, inadequate network reliability and failure to present a systematic plan for linking existing radio systems to the network.

Joseph Gerace, county sheriff, said he was not surprised by the state’s decision. “We knew beforehand that this was highly likely,” he said. “Obviously we’re disappointed at this point.” Gerace said there has been few problems in Chautauqua County with the system, only interference when switching from one tower to another. “We have had success here (Chautauqua County) with the system and we were excited with moving forward with the new communications system,” he said.

Gerace said he is not sure what happens if M/A-COM in forty-five days does not meet state requirements, whether a new vendor is hired or the system is scrapped. Gerace said any money spent on the system for user-end equipment that has been purchased would be reimbursed by M/A-COM. Gerace said most of the money spent has come from state and federal grants. He said he does not know exactly how much local funding has been used, but will next year when county officials add up the numbers. “What is complicated is the majority of the dollars spent has been grant funds, so there would be some complexity to know how much federal and state funding we received. It’s not been all local dollars spent,” he said.