Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hinds to Madison & Ridgeland: get lost.. wait.. come back.

Well, well, well. While doing some research, I came across these minutes from the October meeting of the Wireless Commission. It seems Madison and Ridgeland decided to say goodbye to using the Hinds radio system after Supervisor Robert Graham accused them of "bootlegging" in a Jackson Free Press story and Hinds sued Motorola:

"Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham said a preliminary audit suggests the cities of Madison and Ridgeland have been bootlegging Hinds County’s 800 MHz Motorola digital radio system with the help of a former Hinds County employee. The audit, conducted by Browns Communication of Jackson, also suggests the unauthorized users have passed Hinds County’s system key along to other vendors, who are also using it without Hinds County Board of Supervisors’ approval.

“It’s like handing out a county patrol vehicle—something that’s bought and paid for by Hinds County taxpayers—to one of your friends,” Graham said.

One alleged vendor, Jackson Communications of Pearl, did not return calls, although Browns Communication General Manager Nathan Hargrove said the company has yet to produce their authorization for using the key. Other unauthorized vendors, according to the audit, could be Warren County, Rankin County and the city of Vicksburg." Article

Ah, Mr. Hargrove. Where have we seen his name before? Graham helps him out last week, he helps Graham out with the audit to squeeze Madison and Ridgeland, they work together on making Hargrove some money off of the weather sirens.

However, the story doesn't stop there. Read and and pay close attention to the numbers quoted:

"The county board also claims that Madison and Ridgeland owes the county money for its use of its emergency communications service.

“This system is going to cost us close to $9 million, and we can determine that there’s been approximately 30 percent usage of the radio system by Madison and Ridgeland, and from all counts, that should equal out to almost $3 million,” Graham said, adding that Motorola revealed to him that Hinds County had also financed about $5,000 worth of equipment for Madison and Ridgeland’s radio system—also without the board’s approval."

Graham also unveiled a little threat to the two cities:
"That system is wholly supported by Hinds County taxpayers, and if they don’t pay it they’re going to get cut off,” Graham said, adding that the cities were welcome to “go out and buy their own $9 million system.”

Well, Madison and Ridgeland said no problem, we'll save you the trouble of cutting us off and applied to the Mississippi Wireless Commuication Commission at the August meeting for permission to join the statewide system. However, Supervisor George Smith and guess who, Nathan Hargrove, the Hinds County "consultant" who works for Northstar Wireless yet has no contract under his name or Northstar Wireless with Hinds County, appeared at the meeting to protest Madison and Ridgeland leaving the system. Have to love it. They gripe when they use it, then gripe when they leave it. Here ya go:

"Chairman Epps continued with the Commission agenda, stating that Mr. Roach had explained what was to be done for Madison and Ridgeland. He then noted that Mr. George Smith, Hinds County Supervisor, District 5 was present and asked if he would tell the Commission of any concerns that he has as it relates to the MOUs for the cities of Madison and Ridgeland. Commission members Mr. Lariviere and Mr. Houston left the meeting at that time.

Mr. Smith stated that Hinds County has a stand-alone system for which they have paid $8 to $9M. The system was to furnish Hinds County communications. They have learned that they were connected with Madison and Ridgeland. They have no opposition to Madison and Ridgeland coming off the Hinds County System. However, when Madison and Ridgeland moves off the Hinds County system additional funds will be needed to make the Hinds County system whole. Mr. Hargrove, their technical specialist, was present and Mr. Smith indicated that he would be able to share the technical aspects. Please see the attached letter in reference to Mr. George Smith’s comments.

Chairman Epps asked Mr. Roach if there would be any costs to Hinds County for the MOUs. Mr. Roach stated that the MOUs are strictly between the WCC and the cities of Madison and Ridgeland. Hinds County will not incur a cost for the MOUs. Chairman Epps shared that the Commission has received information that for some time now the lack of good communications has been affecting public safety. Madison and Ridgeland want to get on MSWIN so they can provide public safety for their cities. Mr. Smith said that he was unaware of that.

Chairman Epps called for questions from the Commission for Mr. Smith. Representative Ellis indicated that information was given that the system was 5 years old, not working properly, and that Madison and Ridgeland have been without communications for 20-24 days. Mr. Smith said he was not aware that they were out of service. He offered that perhaps their attempt to disconnect from the Hinds County system, which he knew nothing about, had caused their problem of not being able to communicate. Representative Ellis also inquired about the costs associated with this disconnect and what they were. Mr. Smith reiterated that a gap will be left when the cities disconnect and that Mr. Hargrove could better answer that question. Mr. Hargrove stated that a process is required to disconnect. Equipment has been expanded to accommodate Madison and Ridgeland and these devices have to be reset to the preconnection state in order for Hinds County to be made whole. Mr. Epps asked if Mr. Hargrove has an estimated cost for this process. Mr. Hargrove stated that he does not have an estimate at this time. It will require detailed analysis of the system architecture to determine the cost. He went on to state that the issue is not to prevent Madison/Ridgeland from transitioning. Their concern is some loose ends on Hinds County’s side and who is going to be responsible for making the county whole. Colonel Ladd asked who Mr. Hargrove represented. Mr. Hargrove said that he is with NorthStar Wireless and provides technical services to Hinds County. Colonel Ladd asked if Mr. Hargrove could help the Commission understand what the technical implications are and what it takes to transition without a negative impact. Mr. Hargrove said that there is microwave equipment which links the sites to the zone controller that has been expanded to accommodate the Madison/Ridgeland users. That microwave piece would have to be put back to its original configuration in order for the county to be able to use it. Channel banks will have to be reconfigured and reprogrammed, master switches reconfigured and reprogrammed, and databases that have to be cleaned up once Madison and Ridgeland have been disconnected. Mr. Womack asked if Mr. Hargrove could give the Commission a ball park figure of the costs. He said that he could not since he has not had a chance to look at this at all. Mr. Womack asked if they were aware of any written agreement between Hinds County and these two cities in question for these services. Mr. Smith said no – as far as the Board is concerned. There were no further questions or comments.

Chairman Epps then noted that the MOUs were still before the Commission for action. Mr. Huff made a motion to approve and ratify the MOUs between the cities of Madison and Ridgeland and the WCC. Colonel Ladd seconded the motion. Chairman Epps called for any discussion. Rep. Ellis stated that as chairman of the Advisory Committee, for the record, that he felt that to put the MOUs into effect without making an effort to address the concerns presented by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors is a disservice. There was no further discussion. The motion passed with one opposed vote from Mr. Steve Gray. Mr. Lariviere and Mr. Houston were asked to rejoin the meeting

Not making any accusations here. Just found the whole thing very interesting.

Note: Hinds filed suit against Motorola. The suit is in Hinds County Circuit Court and is still active. Madison and Ridgeland are not defendants.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting story. First of all, I don't believe for one second Madison and Ridgeland, (or anyone else for that matter) are "bootlegging" off of the Hinds County system. If they are using it, they are not getting it for free.
I would bet they are paying someone for it. The question is who?
These systems are expensive, but they are designed for LOTS of users which helps defray the cost.

For example: Rankin County has its own 800 system, the cities that use the system pay the county. This is a win-win. The cities have access to a state of the art system and the county can recoup some of its cost.

Rober Graham better watch who he accuses of being a thief and "bootlegging" because I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut hole no cities, or counties are stealing a damn thing from Hinds County.

Kingfish said...

Don't know what to think on this one. Trial starts Monday. Right now, I'm betting those two cities were going by what someone told them or yet again, Hinds was sloppy. No inside info, just my thoughts after reading through the minutes and complaints.

I just find it amusing whenver hargrove is challenged or asked to support his claims, he can't seem to provide any information. Seems to be a pattern.

Kingfish said...

They weren't bootlegging.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why anyone would want to "bootleg" on the Hinds County System. Northstar (they have changed names 2 or 3 times now) can't keep the system up and running. Towers are constantly down and go days without being repaired.

Someone should look at Robert Grahams 911 dispatcher training course he does. He has photocopied pages out of other books and manuals that he has not paid to use.

Who is bootlegging now.

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