Fulton Co. temporarily puts off needed system updates
by Mary Cosgrove
mcosgrove @cherokeetribune.com
November 18, 2012 12:00 AM | 210 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FULTON COUNTY — Fulton County first responders are operating under an outdated radio system that is 20 years old. The system is due for a complete overhaul in its infrastructure, but commissioners met one hitch in deciding to proceed with an update to this crucial element in public safety.

Officials with north Fulton municipalities — Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell and Alpharetta — have not expressed whether they would like to come on board with the overhauled Fulton County system.

The county has hired consulting firm Engineering Associates, Inc., of Alpharetta, to conduct its study for replacing the radio infrastructure, and Wireless Systems Engineering Manager Mike McGannon was on hand at the county’s Nov. 7 meeting to request the county move forward with the process.

He said in his meetings with north Fulton municipalities, officials have expressed a desire to form their own system independent of the county’s.

“Your staff has known about this for six months or longer,” McGannon said. “We asked the northern cities for a letter of intent, but they have not organized enough today to put forward a letter for intent for their own system.”

If the county were to move forward in replacing its radio system infrastructure, it would have to foot the entire $26 million bill. If the north Fulton cities together agreed to stay with the Fulton County system, each would share the burden, chipping in a collective $11 million. The county would then only pay $15 million.

Commissioner Liz Hausmann and District 2 Commissioner Robb Pitts said they would not like to move forward with the process without hearing some definitive confirmation from the northern city leaders on their participation.

“I don’t know why we’re being asked to approve $26 million when — if we can work with our neighbors — it would only cost $15 million,” Hausmann said.

Pitts said not only would including the cities in the decision-making process be financially advantageous, it would also be sign of good will. “They may decide they don’t want to, which is OK, but at least we’ll have extended an offer to them,” he said.

Commissioners Bill Edwards and Emma Darnell expressed the need for immediacy in making the decision and balked at Hausmann’s motion to give the municipalities 30 days to make their decision. “Why do I have to hold this up because somebody can’t make up their mind to do something? You’re talking about a 911 system,” Edwards said. “You’re talking about lives.”

Darnell’s substitute motion to provide a two-week response period to the municipalities was approved unanimously 7-0.
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