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from: http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20021203-245655.htm 

City pressed to explain new radios

Jim Keary


Published 12/3/2002


     The District's chief technology officers have been asked to quell safety concerns about new police and fire radios by publicly explaining how the $31 million communication system will be purchased and installed, Lt. Ray Sneed, president of the firefighters union said yesterday.
     Lt. Sneed met with Suzanne J. Peck, the city's chief technology officer, and D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson yesterday to discuss problems and delays with the implementation of the radio system.
     Lt. Sneed said because Mrs. Peck could not answer all his questions, he and Mrs. Patterson suggested Mrs. Peck have a public briefing.
     "They are trying to get together and do some type of press conference," Lt. Sneed said. "They want to show what is taking place with the system and let the chips fall where they may.
     "Everybody is in the dark, and we are all looking for answers."
     He said Mrs. Peck may address the questions during Mayor Anthony A. Williams' weekly press briefing Wednesday.
     Mrs. Peck and Mrs. Patterson did not return telephone calls and could not be reached for comment.
     The meeting between Lt. Sneed, Mrs. Peck and Mrs. Patterson, chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee, was held on the same day The Washington Times reported that three major components of the system were eliminated from Motorola's bid to construct the transmitters for the system.
     The D.C. Office of Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), which has a $31 million budget to build the radio system, said that the components will be contracted out later to save money.
     City officials involved with the program said that OCTO cut from the recently approved Motorola contract the purchase of 1,200 portable radios for the Metropolitan Police, a backup microwave-antenna system and automatic diagnostic and alarms systems for failing transmitters and antennas.
     The Times has also reported concerns about delays in construction of the radio system, which the city must complete by September 2003 or face losing some of the $46 million in federal Homeland Security funding designated for the new communication system. OCTO is building the radio system for the police and fire departments.
     Lt. Sneed said he has been trying to get straight answers from OCTO officials about how the money is being spent.
     OCTO has said that $5 million of the $31 million budget for the project has been contracted for engineering and consultants. A contract with Motorola approved last week by OCTO consumes an additional $17 million.
     Lt. Sneed said he wants reassurances from OCTO that the radio system will be built so that firefighters can communicate with their commanders while working inside of buildings. The current radio system, which was installed in January 2001, has dead spots throughout the city and does not work in many large buildings.
     The city believes construction of 10 antennas and a mobile repeater system will solve the problems.
     "I'm just concerned about the finished product," he said.