Wednesday, August 10, 2011 Last updated: Wednesday August 10, 2011, 1:06 PM
BY MATTHEW KADOSH
Passaic Valley Today
The township paid $1 million for an emergency wireless dispatch system over past six years and still have not received one.
Nicholas Brandisi, an attorney the township hired to investigate the matter, blamed the problem on inadequate oversight and a lack of communication between council members and administrators.
Little Falls recognized the need to update their emergency dispatch system in 2006, Brandisi said at Monday’s township council meeting. The township hired First Mile Solutions, a telecommunications-consulting company, to handle the project and First Mile Solutions recommended the township award a bid for the work to Pinnacle Wireless Communications – the only company to respond to a request for proposal, he said.
Pinnacle Wireless Communications and First Mile Solutions were supposed to act independently of each other but did not, Brandisi said. That was indicated by the fact that First Mile Solutions included Pinnacle Wireless Communications documentation in a presentation to the council, Brandisi said.
“A huge red flag should have gone up and a recommendation made to the township to reject the bid,” he said. But instead the township proceeded.
And on paper it appeared as if the system had been installed, Brandisi said. He said it was supposed to have been installed within 90 days of the bid award in September of 2007. But that didn’t happen
“Here we are in 2011 and we still don’t have a system,” he said. “And all the money was spent.”
Brandisi said the township awarded Pinnacle a $601,000 contract along with payments to First Mile Solutions. Combined those payments added up to more than $1 million, he said.
“It simply was poorly administrated,” he said. “Not that anything was done illegally. It simply could have been done a lot better.”
Pinnacle Wireless Communications delivered equipment for the project to the township in 2008, Michael Burke, president of the Little Falls Fire Department said. However they did not install that equipment and three years later, Burke doubts the equipment is adequate for emergency responders’ needs.
“They didn’t follow through on their contract and the problem is a lot of the equipment is outdated now,” he said. “Would you still be working with a 2008 computer?”
Meanwhile, township police and firefighters have a system with spotty coverage and Police Chief John Dmuchowski can’t recall the last time the system was upgraded. Route 46, Clove Road, the east end of town and certain buildings all have poor coverage, he said.
“I hope it gets resolved and we get a system that works for the safety of police, firefighters and the people we serve,” Dmuchowski said.
In 2007 officials said the system would be up and running by the following year, Fire Chief Jack Sweezy said. That never happened.
“In my fire department yearly reports for the past three years, I’ve recommended to the council that the system be up and running for the benefit of residents,” he said.
Councilman Joseph Sisco was on the council when the township made the payments to Pinnacle Wireless Communiciations and First Mile Solutions, but said he would have to look into the matter further.
“Honesty I don’t remember that much about the system,” Sisco said. “We needed it and we paid for it.”
Mayor Michael DeFrancisci could not estimate when they will have a new system but he wants answers.
“I think that we have to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “We spent so much money over a long period of time and still do not have a finished product.”