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County split on 911 upgrades
by Mary Cosgrove
November 13, 2012 10:46 AM | 4962 views | 1 1 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fulton County first responders are operating under an outdated radio system that is 20 years old. The system is due for a complete overhaul in its infrastructure, but commissioners met one hitch in deciding to proceed with an update to this crucial element in public safety.

Officials with north Fulton municipalities — Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell and Alpharetta — have not expressed whether they would like to come on board with the overhauled Fulton County system.

The county has hired consulting firm Engineering Associates, Inc., of Alpharetta, to conduct its study for replacing the radio infrastructure, and Wireless Systems Engineering Manager Mike McGannon was on hand at the county’s Nov. 7 meeting to request the county move forward with the process.

He said in his meetings with north Fulton municipalities, officials have expressed a desire to form their own system independent of the county’s.

“Your staff has known about this for six months or longer,” McGannon said.

“We asked the northern cities for a letter of intent, but they have not organized enough today to put forward a letter for intent for their own system.”

If the county were to move forward in replacing its radio system infrastructure, it would have to foot the entire $26 million bill.

If the north Fulton cities together agreed to stay with the Fulton County system, each would share the burden, chipping in a collective $11 million. The county would then only pay $15 million.

Hausmann and District 2 Commissioner Robb Pitts said they would not like to move forward with the process without hearing some definitive confirmation from the northern city leaders on their participation.

“I don’t know why we’re being asked to approve $26 million when — if we can work with our neighbors — it would only cost $15 million,” Hausmann said.

Pitts said not only would including the cities in the decision-making process be financially advantageous, it would also be sign of good will.

“They may decide they don’t want to, which is OK, but at least we’ll have extended an offer to them,” he said.

Commissioners Bill Edwards and Emma Darnell expressed the need for immediacy in making the decision and balked at Hausmann’s motion to give the municipalities 30 days to make their decision.

“Why do I have to hold this up because somebody can’t make up their mind to do something? You’re talking about a 911 system,” Edwards said.

“You’re talking about lives.”

Darnell’s substitute motion to provide a two-week response period to the municipalities was approved unanimously 7-0.
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November 17, 2012
So typical of these North Fulton separatists to refuse to be a part of a system that will be more cost effective than spending the enormous cost of procuring your own system, and providing a better level of end user interoperability. We already have a problem in metro Atlanta with 13 different disparate non-interconnected public safety radio systems.

Yet the separatist mentality comes shining through. The county is offering a GREAT DEAL, especially when you consider that the north county cities ARE the heaviest users of the current analog 800MHz system, and also pay little to NO COST to be on it. The county agencies don't have near the amount of talkgroups as the north cities do, so if the county is offering them an in on the new system at a discount, these cities would be foolish not to take them up on it.

Or you north Fulton folks can pony up the tax money or go put your hand out to Obama and beg for a public safety radio system at $26 million and pay up to be on your own separate system. Or maybe someone will wise up and ask IXP why they didn't provide their own radio infrastructure as part of their contract with the cities of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton and think that the county should provide it at no cost?

Did they think they were going to get a free ride forever? Fulton county isn't legally obligated to provide public safety radio infrastructure to other municipalities. The fact that they are willing to share the cost and create a cooperative is a great stride in working together to make the community safer. It's up to those north county cities to see the light and sign the paperwork and make it happen.
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