Feds Suspend Multi-Million Dollar Grant For LA-RICS

Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

AmbulancesJust over one week after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to halt work on a troubled and delayed first responder radio network, the U.S. Commerce Dept. brought the hammer down on LA-RICS.

The $154.6-million grant for the Los Angeles Regional Interoperability Communication System was suspended April 3 and its project managers were told to stop work on the radio network immediately. Project heads were given a deadline of April 13 to submit a revised plan.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Supervisor Don Knabe wrote a letter refuting claims by firefighters that exposure from radiation emitted by the planned 70-foot-tall cell towers posed a health hazard.

Sachi Hamai, interim chief executive officer for Los Angeles County said the suspension “represents a setback that we believe can — and must — be overcome to ensure the safety of Los Angeles County residents,” according to the Times.

LA-RICS had a deadline to complete the radio network by Sept. 30 of 2015.

The grant would primarily fund the Public Safety Broadband Network, a $175 million project inked with Motorola to provide needed equipment.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted March 24 to temporarily halt all new construction of the PSBN in cities objecting to the management of the project.

In Glendora, LA-RICS would have had the radio transmission monopoles built on Fire Stations 85, 86 and 151, as well as 226 other sites identified throughout Los Angeles County.

City officials are worried that the LA-RICS PSBN was moving forward without first completing compliance standards under the National Environmental Policy Act and that this project is not being publicly vetted.

“We … object to that. We felt that there wasn’t enough information made available in this communication process,” said City Manager Chris Jeffers at the March 24 Glendora City Council meeting. The city also wanted to know the best ways to aesthetically hide the monopoles and to address concerns about potential harm caused by the radio waves.

LA-RICS was formed in 2009 to create what is being called as the largest radio communication system in the nation, allowing first responders countywide to communicate with one another during catastrophes.