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Press Releases - County Council

Council's insistence in 2019 led to today's launch of $42 million dollar first responder radio system

For Immediate Release: Thursday, July 29, 2021

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 29, 2021 —The official launch event hosted today by the County Executive for the County’s $42 million Motorola Astro 25 land mobile radio system for first responders could not have been possible without the Council’s continuous and timely involvement in the Public Safety System Modernization project (PSSM), which centrally included the new radio system. The Council's Government Operations & Fiscal Policy (GO) and Public Safety (PS) Committees were at the heart of these efforts.

"My colleagues on the Council and I have been consistent advocates for the much-needed improvement and modernization of our public safety communications system," said Council President Tom Hucker. "I credit the members of the GO Committee for understanding the sense of urgency and stepping in to call on the County Executive to get this done."

“As chair of the GO Committee, I have been a steadfast supporter of the enhanced radio project, part of the major modernization effort in public safety communications that benefits our public safety agencies,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “I made sure that adequate funding was available for the project throughout its 10 year implementation period. When the Executive attempted to delay the program by exploring additional options for siting antennas in mid-2019, a strategy that would have added at least a year’s delay to implementation and required additional budget, I and my fellow Councilmembers insisted that the original, well-thought-out 22 site configuration be retained. Our view prevailed and we are now seeing the fruits of our insistence that the project stay the course. I continue to support our public safety agencies with new technology as it becomes available, and will ensure that adequate resources are available to ensure top of the line systems for our first responders”

Weeks before the outages that crippled Montgomery County’s emergency communication system during Mother’s Day weekend in 2019, Councilmembers Sidney Katz and Hans Riemer sent a letter to the County Executive expressing concern over delays that would result from the Executive's recommendation to explore alternative locations for two new tower sites under the PSSM.

After the disruption in May 2019, the Council sprang into action through multiple joint GO and PS Committee worksessions, where Councilmembers prioritized the concern and met with first responders from across County departments and Executive staff to ensure that the project was implemented within the budget and timeline planned.

Despite the urgency, the Executive continued with the proposal to look for alternative sites that would have delayed the project at least another year. After Council urging from the joint Committees, the project continued as planned. The Council requested that the Executive reinstate the original cutover date of December 2020 and keep to the 22 antenna configuration. Thanks to quick Council action, under the leadership of GO chair and then President Navarro and PS chair and then Vice President Katz, the original configuration was finalized and turned on for public safety use a few months ago.

“I am relieved that our first responders finally have a world-class radio system, but let’s not forget how we got here,” said Councilmember Riemer. “The County Executive initially opposed the completion of the system proposed by his own public safety team, ignoring the desperate pleas of public safety officials and instead bowing to pressure from some residents who thought the radio system’s towers would be eyesores. When I learned about this, I immediately reached out to Mr. Katz and we wrote a letter to the County Executive urging him to reverse course and get the new system done. He refused. Then the unthinkable happened; the radio system started failing on Mother’s Day weekend in 2019. Still, the County Executive refused to budge from his misguided position. It wasn’t until months later when the Council stepped in with an appropriation requiring completion that the County Executive finally relented. Now Mr. Elrich is trying to take credit for something he opposed doing. I am grateful to my colleagues on the Council, particularly Mr. Katz and Ms. Navarro, for supporting decisive action."

“Public safety is a primary function of local government,” said Councilmember Andrew Friedson. “Following the system failure on Mother’s Day in 2019, the Council was briefed and it became clear that our aging public safety radio infrastructure needed immediate replacement to ensure the safety of residents and our first responders. We were told replacement parts for this system were out of production and few and far between, if not impossible to find. I shared the sense of urgency of my GO Committee colleagues in calling on the County Executive to implement contingency plans and to stick to a hard deadline for a replacement system. If not for the efforts of the GO Committee and my Council colleagues, we would not have the improved level of coverage we have today to keep our residents safe.”

"One of our highest priorities in local government is to ensure that residents are safe and protected," said Councilmember Evan Glass. "This investment will ensure that our police, fire and the sheriff's department are able to properly communicate using 21st century technology and are able to keep our residents safe."

The Council is both excited and relieved that this modernization project is officially underway. A full timeline of the events referenced above related to the project can be found here.



Release ID: 21-318
Media Contact: Susan Kenedy 240-777-7807, Lucia Jimenez 240-777-7932