Governor Fights for Towers to Replace Old Emergency System

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Gov. Larry Hogan is taking the buildout of a new emergency communication system into his hands, pledging to build one of the towers necessary to make the system work for the 20 local, county and federal agencies that use it, reported Bethesda Magazine.

 In a letter to local officials, Hogan wrote, “The perilous condition of the existing emergency radio communication network, described in your letter as ‘at risk of catastrophic failure,’ is unacceptable. While certain local officials have expressed concern over the location of the tower, our administration remains committed to providing our emergency responders with the tools necessary to adequately protect our communities.”

 The system experienced a 14-hour outage in May. Since then, there have been several additional failures, forcing police and fire officials to communicate via cell phones.

Recently, Hogan took to social media, criticizing county officials for “inexplicable” delays in the network upgrade for a system that is a decade beyond its projected “end of life” date, according to Bethesda Magazine. The system was slated for replacement in 2013, but delays in vendor selection, site selection and permitting requirements have postponed the project. After May’s outage, the county installed a new timing source to regulate the system and prevent further disruptions, with a price tag of $27,000.

There has also been pushback from residents near approved tower locations, which may delay the buildout even further, according to county officials. County Executive Marc Elrich suggested temporarily activating the new system with 20 towers, instead of the 22 sites outlined in the original plan. A 20-site system could be ready for use by December 2020, adding the two additional sites by the end of 2021, reported Bethesda Magazine.

 However, County Council members can’t back Elrich’s recommendation since it won’t provide the standard “95/95” coverage. This week, the Council plans to introduce an amendment to outline the 22 proposed tower sites, urging Elrich to replace the system by fall 2020. “The amendment is for the council to be as clear as we can possibly be that we want to move forward with the system we’ve already designed,” said council Vice President Sidney Katz.

July 9, 2019

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