VIPER Delayed for Safety Center Opening
Moore County Board of Commissioners Chairman Nick Picerno expressed "confusion and disappointment" at what he considered a lack of communication over the delivery of a new radio system for the county.
Officials had hoped to have the VIPER (Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders) system in place for use by the county's safety and emergency personnel by April. That date was chosen to coincide with the opening of the new Rick Rhyne Detention Center in Carthage, which will also become the new home of the county's 911 center and the Sheriff's Office.
But at Tuesday's commissioners meeting, a representative of the State Highway Patrol's VIPER unit said he was not aware of that timeline.
"We are making inroads to deliver IDs for the devices that you ordered to you," said Mike Hodgson, VIPER system manager for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
He spoke in reference to each radio's unique identification number, which is a prerequisite for use.
"We have provided an initial 40 to the 911 center of the total 1,045 that you ordered for the county, and hope to give more in March or April to the Sheriff's Office," he said.
One reason for the delay, Hodgson said, is because each VIPER radio must have its ID reprogrammed, not simply reassigned, a process that "takes time."
"We have been making progress to reharvest IDs from some counties that are making changes in their plans for VIPER and reusing those IDs to satisfy the needs of counties like Moore," Hodgson said. "We recognize that Moore County has a significant number of IDs that they need, but we need some idea of a rollout. Can we provide some kind of transition for the county rather than provide them all in a lump sum? What would be the steps you need for us to provide these?"
Picerno said he was surprised by the lack of understanding between the agencies.
"We have spent $27 million building this safety center and we have a real desire to move in so that the taxpayers can start benefiting from the investment we have made," Picerno said. "One of the things we don't like to do here is spend money twice. We were hoping that we would have a seamless plan with the agencies moving to the safety center. We don't like having to move twice.
"If the 911 center moves but the Sheriff's Office can't go yet because VIPER is not ready, then that means we've still got another move to make."
Picerno said he was "frustrated to no end" that Hodgson just learned the details of the issue.
"I was anticipating that you would have a plan to get us the IDs," Picerno said. "How do we tell the public we're in a bind?"
Hodgson said he "didn't have an answer" at this time.
"I am hesitant to give you a date that you will have them," he said. "Beyond saying will you get the IDs eventually, the answer is yes. But the chances of getting them all in one lump is probably not realistic."
Hodgson said that he would study the issue and return next month with an update if the board so chose.
"If we were not wanting to move into a new public safety center, then this would not be a big deal," said Commis-sioner Larry Caddell. "The problem is, if we open up the 911 center without the IDs, then we're going to have to spend money.
"You (Hodgson) were standing here almost a year ago and said this was not going to be a problem, and we went and ordered radios based on that night you were here. How are we going to address this?"
Hodgson said using a "patch" based on the current system in use would suffice until VIPER is ready.
"A lot of things will have to happen to meet your schedule," Hodgson said.
In other news, Caddell requested that the board pass a resolution in support of "the right of the people to keep and bear arms pursuant to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution."
"I know that a lot of people are shaking their heads and saying that we don't really have a say in this, and maybe we don't," Caddell said. "But this is something that is important to me, and it should be important to all of us."
The resolution was adopted following a request made at the board's Feb. 5 meeting, when Moore County resident Charles Cooper asked the board to follow the Beaufort County board in making a similar statement.
"In light of recent events, popular discussion and national debate, the Moore County Board of Commissioners seeks to publicly restate their commitment to both the North Carolina and United States Constitutions and, particularly, the right of the people to keep and bear arms," the resolutions read.
"Be it resolved that the Moore County Board of Commissioners supports the right of the people to keep and bear arms as set forth in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 30 of the North Carolina State Constitution.
Unlike the resolution passed in Brunswick County, the Moore County resolution omitted a request that the General Assembly pass a law to nullify federal action that infringes on the right to keep and bear arms. Cooper had also asked that county officials forbid staff members from ensuring "that no county-paid staff participate in, nor allow any county resources be used in the implementation of federal law ... that infringes on the right to keep and bear arms."
Board members made no further discussion on the issue. The motion passed unanimously.
The board also unanimously approved several change orders to the D.H. Griffin Construction contract for the public safety center, reducing the contract amount by $337,565.77.
The orders involved costs associated with paving, irrigation, landscaping and other items.
"Right now it looks like we are coming in significantly under budget," Picerno said. "I hope that's the case at the final."
The board meets again on March 5.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@thepilot. com.
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