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Guest commentary regarding BayWEB

While BayWEB was a dismal, convoluted, and quite smelly failure, I think it can be viewed as a success in certain aspects of how public safety should NOT purchase high-tech systems.

As the old saying goes:
“Everyone has a purpose in life – even if to be used as a bad example.” In this case, it is the BTOP grant process, not San Jose, to be held up as a bad example.

Two recent industry articles describe how silly the BTOP grant process can become.

http://www.rrmediagroup.com/newsArticle.cfm?news_id=7763

“Such a vote puts the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 funds at risk, but we can all cite projects where free money from federal or state sources have led to exponentially higher downstream costs (emphasis added),” the report said. “San Jose staff does not come to this recommendation lightly. Staff has invested thousands of hours in the negotiations and related work to create the BayRICS Authority. This time has been well spent in ensuring that if the project goes forward, it will be governed by an organization created to operate transparently.”

San Jose should be congratulated in doing its homework and looking at other bad examples of good intentions run amok. BOOM-formats tend to allow for secrecy where the vendor can ‘hide the ball’ on system information or true costs, the vendor is not subject to FOIA, and the vendor has little transparency and scant public accountability.

In other coverage of this story, we see:

http://tinyurl.com/d7bmup4

Quotes and comments below:

“One of the key funding uncertainties for San Jose was associated with the cost to supply adequate backhaul for the proposed LTE network. Under the proposed deal, the JPA would have to supply backhaul from the LTE sites, and many jurisdictions are counting on a negotiated deal with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Authority to use the transit organization’s fiber network to address the backhaul issue for little or no cost.”

“However, the BART fiber network does not extend to San Jose, so the city would have to find another backhaul alternative to support the proposed network, according to Michelle McGurk, San Jose’s JPA representative.”

Comment: This is a GREAT take-away. In many cases, the backhaul is an after-thought. In Will County, we are trying to implement ubiquitous fiber FIRST – for all sorts of public-safety applications – including future wireless projects, NG911, and data. But, BTOP apparently wanted to support LTE/wireless/700MHz D-Block applicants, and although Will County passed several gates on the BTOP application process (with transparency, competition, and accountability for ongoing system support), our fiber-oriented application fell by the wayside. Some may view this as a ‘sour grapes’ comment, but I wanted to use our example of another, possibly better, use of a BTOP grant.

“Such fiscal uncertainty is particularly difficult during the current climate of tight budgets for a city like San Jose, which has made significant public-safety layoffs and salary cuts during the past year.”

“This is not a time to sign on to the possibility of significant costs that we might not be able to bear,” Reed said.

Comment: This is another GREAT take-away. How many contracts have we seen where a vendor comes in low to get the job, then floats the price up over time just to obtain basic services? In a nearby county, there is a case-in-point with a $7.055M P25 project that is now screaming skyward in excess of $30M with multiple scope-changing ‘change orders’. The project started in 2006 and is still not on the air. The BayRICS project appeared to be doomed as another example of just this….come in low and jack up costs over time. San Jose policy-makers should be congratulated on aborting a money-pit project sooner than later.

Comment: Lastly, this should be a cautionary tale for the NTIA to refuse to have a vendor be the BTOP grant applicant, the vendor listing its subcontractors as “participants” in a BTOP grant, and the NTIA/BTOP facilitating a sole-source-no-bid scheme which side-steps all competitive bidding in a market where competition is SUPPOSED to hold down costs.

Hello? FCC Chairman? NTIA administrators and BTOP grant issuers?  House Committee on Science and Technology?

CAN YOU HEAR US NOW on the issue of competition versus endorsement and support of sole-source-no-bid awards in a Federal grant environment?

Comments made are my own and may not be the opinion of my employer, or any organization for which I am an officer, member, or representative.

Executive Director Steve Rauter,
Western Will County Communications Center

(WESCOM)

14300 S. Coil Plus Drive
Plainfield, IL 60544
Email: SRauter@WESCOM-9-1-1.org
General: 815-267-8300