An agreement enabling the Nevada Highway Patrol and other agencies to quickly move ahead with about $11 million in equipment purchases to replace a flawed radio communications system was approved Tuesday by a state panel.
The state Board of Examiners, chaired by Gov. Kenny Guinn, approved the agreement with Massachusetts-based M/A-Com Inc., which will provide nearly 1,800 radios to the NHP and the other agencies. The exact amount of the deal is still being negotiated.
Besides the radios, radio towers and other equipment will bring the total to about $15 million to get rid of the old system and comply with a Federal Communications Commission order to stop using more than 140 unauthorized radio frequencies.
The NHP had spent $14 million on a contract with Motorola to build the existing computer radio system linking troopers with one another, dispatchers and other police agencies. That system was activated in 2000 - but nobody applied to the FCC for the frequency licenses.
NHP Chief Dave Hosmer, who inherited the flawed system, has overseen a massive investigation to determine whether prosecution is warranted. After Tuesday's Board of Examiners meeting, he said about 1,300 pages of reports and back-up materials will be turned over to Attorney General Brian Sandoval by Friday.
Asked whether he thought criminal charges could result, Hosmer said he thought so when the probe opened but with the investigation nearly done there's "no smoking gun to it."
By January, the state hopes to have the new system operating in the major population centers of Las Vegas and Reno. Outlying areas of Nevada should be linked to the new system by next fall.
The FCC had threatened to levy big fines unless Nevada quickly set up the new system, and Hosmer said that even with the progress that's been made he doesn't expect the federal agency to be "totally happy."
"The ball's clearly in our court," Hosmer added in stressing that a rapid resolution of the problem should improve the state's chances of avoiding penalties.
"Nobody is pleased or proud we're in this situation," said Greg Smith of the state Purchasing Division, who explained the M/A-Com agreement to the Board of Examiners.
"Everbody learned a lesson here," Guinn said as he joined with Sandoval and Secretary of State Dean Heller, the other two Board of Examiners members, in endorsing the deal.
More discussion of the spending is expected at next month's Interim Finance Committee meeting. The legislative panel is chaired by Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, who has said the state "boondoggled" the $14 million system that started up only a few years ago.
Arberry said his concerns about the NHP radio system stem in part from a major change in the state's computer system for welfare programs several years ago - a project that started out at about $13 million and wound up costing more than $100 million.