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from: http://detnews.com/2002/editorial/0206/30/a10-525319.htm

Share State Police Radio Towers

By The Detroit News

The Issue
   Should local communities be allowed to use the exclusive state police radio system towers?

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   The new Michigan State Police public safety radio communication system is in trouble. It duplicates systems already in place, is behind schedule and is millions of dollars over budget. The Legislature can rescue this boondoggle by allowing local municipalities to piggyback on the state system's towers.
   Five years ago, the State Police received a $180 million contract to develop its own statewide radio system. The Michigan Public Safety Communications System was intended to upgrade state police communication capabilities and to allow as many as 16,000 local units of government to be part of that process.
   The system features mobile radio coverage using 181 tower sites. The last of four phases is being completed.
   The project, however, has been plagued with problems. It is three years behind schedule, underused, $54 million dollars over budget and, by most accounts, technologically obsolete.
   Key among its shortcomings is that the system was constructed under the "Field of Dreams" theory -- "build it and they will come." Only about 3 percent of eligible law enforcement subscribers across Michigan have partnered with the State Police. The state system is criticized as being poorly constructed, expensive and lacking the range of mobile coverage needed for police patrols.
   In addition, the State Police signed an exclusive contract with Motorola as the service provider. The Motorola equipment, say critics, is not on par with other systems on the market. So rather than attracting users, the State Police system competes with them.
   Oakland County, for example, decided to go it alone. Oakland has a $30 million countywide police and fire radio system that is more advanced than the state's. But when the county requested to hang some of its equipment on a 500-foot tower in Addison Township used by the State Police, it was denied access.
   Bob Daddow, who works for the Oakland County executive's office, says the intent is obvious: By preventing local governmental units from hanging antennas on its towers, the State Police compel them to use the state police system. Without access to the towers, Oakland County will be forced to build two 250-foot towers of its own at a cost of $2.2 million to the taxpayers.
   Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard says the police and fire agencies ought to be working together to make the most efficient use of resources.
   "Given the assurance that we won't interfere with their radio, and given the assurance that it won't cause any structural problems, it's a win for public safety," he told The News. "A more efficient radio system is created for the agencies using it, and it's a win for the taxpayers who have already paid for the towers once."
   State Police officials did not return our phone calls.
   The Legislature should end the wasteful competition. Requiring the State Police to share its towers would enhance coverage areas and provide better communication for all concerned.