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Calif. emergency radio system back on track
By Eric Bradley
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A radio network linking Los Angeles County's 34,000 first responders can move forward under a new state law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, helps save more than $270 million in federal grants for the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System, or LA- RICS.
The funds were in danger after initial efforts to build the system ground to a halt in July when the county's lawyers discovered the contract did not comply with state contract laws.
Lowenthal said the radio network, a joint project by the county of Los Angeles, 81 cities in the county, the Los Angeles Unified School District and UCLA, has been in the works since the 9-11 attacks.
"This is all about having an emergency radio system for the 10 million people who live in L.A. County," said Lowenthal.
Lawmakers rushed to pass the bill last month as the year's legislative session ended.
"It would have been a huge loss for us to have the project delayed," Lowenthal said.
Assembly Bill 946 waives normal state law governing public contracts.
The LA-RICS mega contract, estimated to cost in excess of $600 million, including maintenance, ran afoul of those rules by combining the technology and construction components of the project.
Officials familiar with the plan say it was for good reason - telecommunications equipment require specialized transmission sites built by qualified vendors.
Under the contracting law, building contracts must be awarded to the lowest bidder.
Pat Mallon, executive director of the LA-RICS Authority, said AB 946 avoids a multi-step contracting process that most likely would have led to losing more than a quarter billion dollars in federal grants.
"The project would have gone forward," said Mallon. "However, the time period that would have been required for the project would have been significantly extended."
Mallon said the system could be operating by September 2013.