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(Jan. 25, 2019) The latest update on the P25 emergency services radio system brought some heated discussion, but also notable silence coming from the lack of presence of anyone from Harris, the company that makes and installs the systems. 

“Don’t you think it would be prudent to have somebody from the installer of the radio system here?” Worcester County Commissioner Joseph Mitrecic asked.

Emergency services personnel said the company was made aware of the presentation during the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday. 

“I’m sure they don’t want to be here,” Mitrecic said. “They’ve sold us a bill of goods, and it keeps costing and costing and costing, and it’s gonna keep costing and costing.”

Mitrecic could be seen shaking his head as he expressed his frustration.

A Federal Engineering representative said a main concern was adding another antenna at the central site. It would cost approximately $8,000 for materials, engineering and labor. The Fairfax, Virginia company provides technical assistance for the radio systems.

When asked if an additional antenna was needed, Adam Nelson of Federal Engineering said, “If we know that is an issue in those areas, it’s not going to go away, it’s not going to get better unless this change is made.”

Commissioner Chip Bertino asked if it was possible to have a mandatory attendance from a Harris representative when discussing the radio system, and wanted to put a kibosh any further developments until that happened.

“Because, quite truthfully, I think there are issues here. Well, they’re on my mind, I won’t speak for anybody else, [but] they ought to be in the room for this,” Bertino said.

Commissioner Jim Bunting agreed.

“I wouldn’t care if we stopped the conversation right now [and] had everybody in the room at the same time,” Bunting said.

Bertino cited safety concerns in the event those using the radio system got into an area that is not part of the 95-percent success rate.   

“We still have pockets in our county that coverage is substandard,” Bertino said. “I don’t think we want any of our first responders, our EMS, anybody to be put in jeopardy because we have lapses in our system, and I would just ask that … if we have direct questions, a rep from [Harris] ought to be here to answer those questions and address those concerns.”

Kelly Shanahan, assistant chief administrative officer, acknowledged, “The system is not perfect, but it was not designed to be perfect.”

Nelson said that Harris had fulfilled its obligation to “pass a certain level of performance” by providing a 95-percent coverage target.

“In order for us to provide 100-percent coverage would have cost millions and millions of dollars more than what we paid from Harris,” Shanahan said. 

Bertino said the system is two years old and there is a discussion to purchase another antenna.

He continued expressing frustration with the lack of the sufficient coverage to key buildings in Newark, including the Worcester County Development Center and the fire company.

“It just concerns me greatly that that building has been there since we started talking about it and we can’t get coverage after we spent all this money,” Bertino said. “I understand the limits of the contract, but by God it’s wrong.”

After much debate, Commission President Diana Purnell attempted to restore order and allow Nelson to finish his presentation.

“I know you’re just the messenger,” Bertino said to Nelson.

Nelson told the commissioners he’d be open to continuing the conversation at another time.

“I am definitely willing to come back out here when Harris is present,” Nelson said.

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