Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

February 28, 2014

County plagued with radio system issues

CROSSVILLE — Several maintenance issues plague the county's emergency communications P-25 radio system, but those still may not be the cause of the problems county emergency employees are having with the system.

Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. gave the emergency services committee an initial update on the emergency communications radio system.

Last month, the emergency services committee requested Carey invetigate the P-25 radio system in order to help determine what the problems are with radios not working properly and frequent issues with dispatchers not hearing those who are in the field with radios.

Carey said he had several meetings and discussions with TAIT, Motorola, Harris, a private company and Cassidian. He said Cassidian, formerly known as EADS, contacted Carey.

"I bluntly expressed our dissatisfaction with the radio system and they said they would do whatever it takes to get it operating properly and us happy and I told them they hadn't so far," Carey said.

Problems with the radio system have been ogoing for several years.

He said all of the companies have assigned engineers to evaluate the P-25 digital radio system, at no cost to the county, and Carey said he would come back with a complete report in March, before the county commission meeting.

Carey said Cassidian immediately assigned three field investigators from their company and they generated a 30-page report showing several problems.

"Some of the problems are our fault and some may be theirs. They also brought a tower crew for realignments of antennas. Our operating system is not a finalized version. It's a pre-release and they are looking into getting us on the official version," Carey said.

Some of the problems found by Cassidian with the radio system were the passwords on routers were not what they were assigned. They had been changed and Carey was checking into who changed them and why.

"They are checking into server problems. There are some maintenance issues at the Campbell Junction and Midway sites. There are some issues IT should have been able to repair. They found generators not working, cooling fans not working and lightning damage at multiple sites. We had 40 watt and not 80 watt protection for lightning (as recommended). There were HVAC filters that had never been changed. Rodent damage to wiring. Relay power failures, poor coverage issues at Midway. Electric filters had never been changed in some of the servers, causing overheating. There were breaker covers missing, or broken. These are just some of the maintenance problems they found," Carey said.

Carey said there was also an issue with five Kenwood replacement radios that were released to Eric Ritzman, P25 radio system communications consultant, but hadn't been put out to the users. Since that time they have been released.

Roy Turner, 7th District commissioner and paramedic with Cumberland County EMS, said, "We pay Eric $2,000 a month to do this. It's obvious it's not getting done. I'll make a motion that we need to look for a new IT guy."

Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, said, "That motion is out of order. I think we need the mayor to come to us with a recommendation after he completes what we've tasked him to do."

Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner and emergency services committee chairman, said, "I think we ought to let him finish the investigation report."

Lynch agreed and said, "It's in the mayor's court now."

Carey said Cassidian told him that, while looking at the system, they said it's a five-site radio system. If two sites are down, it will continue to operate OK, but if a third site goes down, the system will completely fail and nothing will work.

"On Saturday, Feb. 8, a third site went down and we had the whole system down for at least 15-20 minutes. It's a good thing they (Cassidian) were here in town and they got it back up. They said it should be simulcast radio system and not a multicast. There are two microwave (antennas) out that need to be replaced," Carey said.

Carey said that after talking with several companies, "most are going to recommend us replacing the equipment with theirs."

Carey said he got a flash drive from Ritzman, but, "I can't find what to do with codes for the radio system. I got a flash drive, but don't have a clue what to do with it. It's just a bunch of numbers on there."

Allen Foster, 4th District commissioner, asked, "Have the radios gotten worse, or were they like this from the beginning?"

Cumberland County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Iles said they were given the radios and the equipment hasn't worked well since the beginning.

Foster said, "If all of the maintenance issues were fixed, that's telling me the problems still won't be fixed because it's been that way since the start. Something is going on other than maintenance problems."

Carey said, "I feel there will be several problems involved."

Iles said his concern was that there are currently two sites down and if a third site goes down the radio system won't work at all.

"My concern is that we have no other means of communication ... If another one goes down, what do we do? We do have cell phones and have had to use them a lot. This is a dire issue," Iles said.

Foster asked what needed to be done to get another site up?

Carey said they would probably get one microwave back up. The money should be budgeted and that would probably help.

Iles said the deputies would be willing to step up and go by and look at the radio sites if they had to just to check on things and make sure they were OK and nobody was messing with them.

"We can go by once a week or whatever. Maybe that will help," Iles said.

Hyder said, "We want this (system) to work and are trying our best to get it done and we will get it done."

Carey said he had spent four to six hours per day, five days a week, working on this radio system issue.

Foster said to the deputies who attended the meeting, "It helps with you coming here letting us know about the problems."

Tom Howard of the sheriff's department said, "We will have someone here every month until you get this fixed."

Lynch also asked about narrow-banding equipment for the pager system that was supposed to have been purchased.

"The system is supposed to be in a warehouse somewhere. We've got $100,000 in that and it's not up and nobody knows where it is," Lynch said.

The county is waiting for right-of-way and permission from the state to install the new pager equipment on a tower on Renegade Mountain.

Carey said he would check into the whereabouts of the pager system equipment.

Hyder said, "Mayor Carey should have a complete report by our next meeting and then we can make a decision."

Third District Commissioner Johnny Presley, said, "Kenny (Mayor Carey) needs to make a recommendation because he is the one that is still investigating. Once he completes the charge, then we can make a decision."

The committee is scheduled to meet again March 17 at 4:30 p.m. in the small courtroom on the third floor of the Cumberland County Courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.

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