Los Angeles City Council members voted to approve the use of 19 city-owned police stations as the location of cell sites for the amended Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) public-safety LTE proposal. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is expected to restart the project—suspended by NTIA since April 3—next week, according to the approved special motion.

Previously, the Los Angeles County board voted to support the LA-RICS corrective action plan that NTIA must approve before the suspension on the project is lifted. NTIA, which administers the key federal grant associated with the project, previously stated that it also needed LA City Council support to lift the suspension. That support came in the form of a special motion approved by a 14-0 vote.

“The Department of Commerce has requested City Council action consistent with the county action by Monday, April 20, in order to assure that the project move forward,” according to a statement made before the motion was considered.

In approving the new LA-RICS LTE proposal, the LA City Council also approved the inclusion of LTE cell sites being deployed at 19 city police stations, which means the new plan includes 83 cell sites—less than half the 177 cell sites in the LA-RICS network design that was undermined by opposition votes from elected officials from the county and the city more than two weeks ago.

Problems with the LA-RICS surfaced when a local firefighters union led a public campaign that claimed the RF emissions from the LTE towers being installed at city and county fire stations would create health dangers for the firefighters at those stations. No fire stations will host LTE cell sites under the new LA-RICS proposal.

“We’ve already eliminated the fire stations, because of the geographical constraints, in terms of the footprint of those,” Councilman Mitch Englander said during the meeting, which was webcast. “Most of them—a lot of them—don’t have communications towers on them already, unlike police stations that have existing equipment and much greater footprints. There’s a lot more area to mitigate and work around a police station, particularly because they have large parking lots.

“They also have the infrastructure already in place at every police station, versus the fire stations—that’s what this really addresses.”

Councilman Bob Blumenfield thanked Englander for his efforts and expressed support for the motion, which included an amendment that alternatives for a proposed San Vicente Peak cell site be considered.

“Not only is this a tremendous amount of federal money, but what’s at stake here is an interoperable communications system for emergency situations,” Blumenfield said. “We’ve been told in the past that one of the problems that happens is that police departments can’t communicate to other departments, etc. This is a major federal grant to allow us to improve our communication that will help with public safety and will help with emergency situations.”

On April 1, the LA City Council voted to halt construction of the LA-RICS LTE project at city-owned sites after receiving outspoken opposition from representatives of the firefighters union and the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL)—the local police union. Yesterday, LAPPL Director Peter Repovich thanked Englander for working “very closely” with the union “to address all of our concerns” on the item and expressed support for LTE project proceeding, with a caveat.

“We want to go on record that we support this motion,” Repovich said during the meeting. “However, if LA-RICS fails to live up to the spirit of the motion, then we’ll be forced to oppose this.

“In addition, we want to ensure that this system is viable. If the [LA-RICS] joint powers authority cannot complete this project in a timely manner, as outlined in the corrective action plan, then we will be opposed.”

Multiple speakers during the meeting expressed frustration that the LA-RICS item was not included on the City Council’s agenda and that no supporting documentation for the item was available. Englander said that U.S. Department of Commerce officials informed the city late Thursday that the LA City Council needed to take action “by Monday,” soNTIA could include the stance as it makes its decision whether to lift its suspension.

NTIA administers the $154.6 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant that is funding most of the proposed LA-RICS public-safety LTE network. Current law requires that BTOP funds be utilized by Sept. 30, meaning the deadline can be changed only by an act of Congress, according to an NTIA spokeswoman.

With this in mind, Los Angeles-area representatives are scheduled to travel next week to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with federal lawmakers and officials to determine whether there is any way to give LA-RICS additional time to complete its project.

Source: Urgent Communications