Talks on Countywide Radio System Continue

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Burbank City and Los Angeles County officials are no closer to an agreement over how to make a plan for a county-wide emergency response compatible with a six-city system that is already in place in the region.

County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Burbank city officials and Burbank police and fire department leaders met Friday with county officials in an attempt to resolve some of the city’s concerns that the county’s plans could eclipse the existing Interagency Communications Interoperability System, known as ICIS.

Burbank adopted the system, which Glendale officials spearheaded, in November 2003. The system enables public safety officials in the six participating cities to communicate on a single radio channel.

But as the county pursues a study into the interoperability needs of the entire county, participants in the existing collaborative are worried about the future of the existing system — especially if county officials opt to build a new system from the ground up without including technology that is already active.

“Why would I give up something I already have for the promise of something that may or may not be better 10 years from now,” said Ron Davis, general manager of Burbank Water and Power.

As the county lobbies for federal grants to research county-wide interoperability needs, U.S. legislators are baffled by the apparently competing paths of the county and the six cities already participating in a joint powers agreement.

“It’s pretty awkward to explain to a senator’s staff,” Davis said. “Understandably, they look at both of us and say, ‘You people need to work this out.'”

County officials are responding to what they see as legitimate concerns from interoperability system participants who want to assure that any proposed system will fully meet their needs and the same levels of service they now have, said Anna Pembedjian, Antonovich’s justice deputy.

“Supervisor Antonovich was very receptive in hearing the city’s concerns … and asked sheriff’s personnel to respond to those concerns in writing, which we have since received and shared with the city,” she said. “And we hope for answers and a resolution that meets everyone’s satisfaction.”

In the meantime, Burbank officials will continue to cooperate with the county’s Regional Interoperability Steering Committee, which is leading the county’s efforts, Davis said. But there are no plans to abandon the existing system.

“We are going to continue ICIS until they either join ICIS or show us how to continue the system while pursuing what they want,” he said.

The existing system, which already reaches 80% of the county, could be built out to reach the county for about the same cost as the county’s impending study, Davis added.

“They’re lobbying [the federal government] … to get a couple million for a study,” Davis said. “But Glendale has an open infrastructure, so the county could join us any day for free.”

Source: Burbank Leader March 21, 2007.

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