Archive for Wednesday, March 8, 2006

County OKs use of experts for radio work

March 8, 2006

Leavenworth County will use the same consulting firm as the state as it works to "reband" public safety radios and related equipment now in use throughout the county.

County commissioners on Monday gave unanimous approval to enter into a contract with RCC Consultants Inc. for its services related to the changeover. Any fees paid to the company related to the rebanding would be reimbursed to the county by Sprint/Nextel, which is spearheading the nationwide effort for the Federal Communications Commission.

Chuck Magaha, director of the county's Office of Emergency Management, pressed commissioners to sign off on the use of a consultant to help the county in what he described as a complex effort. Magaha appeared before commissioners with Sheriff Dave Zoellner and Undersheriff Ron Cranor.

"I can't do it. These two gentlemen here can't do it. ... We need to have someone that knows how the system's going to work," Magaha said.

The FCC is requiring the reconfiguring, or rebanding, of the 800 megahertz spectrum to cut down on the interference caused by cellular telephone traffic on emergency communications radios nationwide.

The process, officials say, will physically separate commercial wireless carrier traffic from public safety operations within the 800 megahertz band. To accomplish the task, the radio frequencies used by many city, county and state agencies will be replaced with new frequencies located elsewhere within the 800 megahertz band.

The Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office owns six FCC licenses to broadcast on frequencies now in the lower portion of the 800 megahertz band.

Those licenses, in turn, are used by the cities of Basehor, Lansing, Tonganoxie, the sheriff's office and Magaha's office. All equipment that operates on lower bands must be reprogrammed.

"Basically what they're telling us is that Nextel will replace or reconfigure -- it doesn't matter what the style of the radio is or what the style of the equipment is -- one for one," Magaha said. "They're not going to give us a penny more, but they're supposedly not going to give us a penny less for what it takes to do this rebanding process."

Among reimbursable costs are reprogramming of radios and equipment, retuning of towers, legal fees, consulting fees related and administrative costs.

The state has awarded a contract to RCC Consultants, Woodbridge, N.J., for consulting and engineering services for the state's rebanding project. The commission's blessing for the contract was necessary because RCC does not want to wait for reimbursement by Sprint/Nextel.

"The consultant wants their money up-front," Magaha told commissioners. "That means Leavenworth County would have to pay that consultant to find out what inventory we have that needs to be reprogrammed, what radios, how many radios, make sure that our antenna system is going to take the reband project."

Magaha told commissioners he did not have a contract with RCC ready for their perusal, and he said afterward he didn't have a ballpark figure for the fee. He, Zoellner and Commissioner Don Navinsky, who each attended a state presentation last month about the rebanding, assured Commissioners Dean Oroke and Clyde Graeber the consultant's charges would be reimbursable.

"That was the understanding that I received," Navinsky said.

Separately, Zoellner told commissioners he already had signed a contract for legal services related to the rebanding with the Rockville, Md., law firm of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy and Ecker, P.A. The firm also is representing the state on its rebanding project. Unlike the consulting firm, though, the legal firm has agreed to accept payment directly from Sprint/Nextel.

Magaha noted that a Nov. 6 deadline looms for the switchover.

"This is a project that was started before Sheriff Zoellner's administration," Magaha said. "It's been a long time coming, and we've got our backs up against the wall."

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