Admitting problems exist is the first step toward fixing them. It’s usually also the hardest.
It’s human nature to want to look anywhere else but inward when diagnosing where something is breaking down. No one wants to hear anything remotely like, “I told you so,” or its cousin, “See there!”
But playing shell games with the truth usually only prolongs the problem, costs more money and, overall, creates more of a headache for everyone involved.
Franklin County did a good thing last year in upgrading its e911 system. There were significant problems with the antiquated service. Dispatchers often reported an inability to reach emergency personnel in rural areas, putting both personnel and residents needing rescue in potential jeopardy.
Biting the bullet for a $10 million upgrade was what Franklin County had to do to bring their services up to date.
However, the new system has undeniably been riddled with its own problems. There is just no getting around the multitude of reports from emergency personnel and the contracted company Harris Corp — all of whom want very much to have the new service — that calls drop, transmissions are garbled, calls have feedback and the like.
It is so bad that fire and rescue companies have not made the switch.
Why would anyone want to try and prove the contrary instead of just accepting that the purchase is not what was expected and continue to work instead to get it fixed?
It serves little purpose to try and stage spur-of-the-moment show and tells. Even if all the calls made by Franklin County Commissioner Chair Shane Mitchell to various deputies in different locales throughout the county went through just fine, sitting in one location that is picking up transmissions is completely different from snaking around curves, going up and down hills while surrounded by copious amounts of pine trees.
We’re sure Mitchell knows that, too. More than likely he was merely trying to put a positive spin on a very frustrating situation.
However, summing up problems as being related to users not holding radios properly is an eyebrow-raiser. Hopefully these radios aren’t as picky as that generation of iPhones that had to be held “just so” or else the internal antenna was cut off. That would be an expensive shame.
Perhaps the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be able to bring a resolution as they conduct their investigation into what might be causing interference.
In the meantime, 911 services will have to limp along until it is all sorted out.
* * * *
The Franklin County Commissioners aren’t the only ones raising eyebrows when it comes to addressing problems.
Folks in and around Wake Forest have to be as puzzled with recent events surrounding the Wireless Research Center (WRC) of North Carolina.
Last year, with the help of the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, the small group of entrepreneurs were able to convince commissioners — and the Gold Leaf Foundation — that they had a business plan worthy of investment. The town had a couple of million to spare in its Futures Fund, so it invested close to half of that right away. The Gold Leaf Foundation also put up close to a million.
But then in December, the WRC came back asking for $50,000 more to help with operating costs. The town granted it.
This week, they asked for $75,000, and an extension on its loan payback date. Again, they got it.
Somehow, this does not mesh well with the many positive things we’ve heard from prominent town officials about how well the WRC is doing. And it doesn’t seem right that a huge pot of Futures Fund money should be tipped over into a single endeavor. At the very least there should be a formal application process, much like applying for a grant.
There should be a good deal more openness about the financial dealings, too. If the taxpayers are going to be treated like a bank, they should receive regular statements showing how the money is being spent.
While in reality, once an investment like this gets started, you almost have to keep putting money in it as it is in for a penny, in for a pound. And you just hope it really does live up to all the positive spin surrounding it.
But it might be time to start taking a hard look at what the problem is and why the WRC isn’t able to operate without regular infusions of more taxpayer money. The answer might be simple. But the question needs to be asked and answered openly.
For the complete story pick up The Wake Weekly at a newsstand near you or subscribe by calling (919) 556-3182