More Frustrations Expressed Over New Radio System

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners again voiced frustration with the county’s new radio system this week.

A representative of Federal Engineering, the company hired to assess the new public safety radio system installed by Harris Corporation, presented the commissioners with a report Tuesday. The recommendations included in it resulted in the commissioners again expressing concern with the actions of Harris Corporation. No one from the company was present for Tuesday’s presentation.

“They ought to be in the room,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said.

The county hired Federal Engineering in August to analyze coverage and interference problems plaguing the county’s new Harris P25 radio system. Harris was hired in 2015 to handle the $5 million project.

In this week’s presentation, Adam Nelson of Federal Engineering said that after reviewing the system his company recommended the county install a new antenna to increase coverage capability. He said the county should also establish a comprehensive problem-reporting system among radio users so more information (such as location, radio type, etc.) will be available in future when problems are experienced.

When asked how much the proposed antenna would cost, Nelson said Harris Corporation would need to be involved in that project.

Bertino asked why that hadn’t been part of the company’s responsibility in the first place.

“They had to pass a certain level of performance, which they did,” Nelson said, adding that the company had met the 95 percent coverage target.

Staff said some of the coverage issues related to the fire station in Newark and the Worcester County Developmental Center. Bertino said Harris Corporation should have known about those buildings from the start.

“They did but we did not build the contract, or the proposal, in such a way that they had to guarantee coverage in every single building,” said James Hamilton.

Bertino maintained that Harris should have representatives present for the discussion. Commissioner Joe Mitrecic agreed.

“It keeps costing and costing and costing and it’s going to keep costing and costing and costing,” he said.

Bertino said there were still areas where coverage was substandard.

“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,” Bertino said.

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Shannahan reminded the commissioners that the system only had a 95 percent coverage rate.

“The system is not perfect but it was not designed to be perfect…,” Shannahan said. “In order for us to provide 100 percent coverage would have cost millions and millions of dollars more than what we paid.”

He said the system met its requirements but that there were tweaks, such as the proposed antenna, that could improve it.

“I’ve never actually seen a vendor promise 100 percent,” Nelson said.

Bertino maintained that the Worcester County Developmental Center was a location without coverage and that was a problem.

Nelson said he was happy to return when representatives from Harris Corporation to continue the discussion regarding the system and potential improvements.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.