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Snakebit best describes Brunswick County’s efforts to install the North Carolina State Viper radio communications system.
Emergency Services Director Anthony Marzano reported to county commissioners Monday night the new system won’t be online until January 2013 at the earliest.
Marzano said the popularity of the system statewide has delayed the county’s attempt to transition to the public safety radio and paging system.
“In January 2011 we began a project to move to the Viper system and phase out our Smartlink system,” Marzano said.
He said the system upgrade was anticipated to be in place by Oct. 1, but the equipment cannot be connected to the system until software is provided by North Carolina Highway Patrol.
“The equipment is in-vehicle, installed but it’s not operational until the Highway Patrol provides ID (codes),” Marzano said.
“That was expected in July; now we are told it will be January or early February. We are not the only place waiting.”
Marzano described the Viper IDs like the operating system of a computer. You can buy the hardware, but until the software is installed you can’t do anything with it.
“You need the IDs to interface with the (Viper) system,” Marzano said.
Commissioner Bill Sue added, “We’ve got the car keys, but can’t drive the car.”
Marzano said the state had 63,000 IDs available initially, but they already ran out of capacity.
He said the system used to be based on a Motorola operating system, but has been moved, which will provide more access.
Marzano recommended commissioners communicate with state officials to help move the process along, but said county public safety agencies are making all the preparations they can short of connecting to the system.
Marzano said police departments in Leland, Navassa, Northwest Caswell and Oak Island and a few fire departments throughout the county have already purchased the new equipment required to run the Viper system.
“While we wait, we are doing everything we can. All the radios are installed in fire department equipment,’ Marzano said.
“Once we got (the IDs) we will move quickly.”
Commissioner Marty Cooke said he contacted friends in the state government, but couldn’t get a straight answer.
“I was told because of the Democratic National Convention (the IDs) were held for it, but then the highway patrol said that wasn’t the case; they said the General Assembly de-funded the program,” Cooke said.
“We should probably lobby our legislators to make sure the money is there (for us) because everyone is going to Viper. We’ve come to the River Jordan, but our hands are tied.”
Marzano said the delay comes with a cost. The county has to continue upkeep of the Smartlink system including maintaining radio tower contracts.
The holdup required EMS to extend one tower lease another year at a cost of $23,000.
Marzano said once the Viper changeover occurs, the county can try to sell off the Smartlink equipment to recoup some costs from the delay.
But they will wait until all agencies have tested the Viper system for 30 days to ensure there are no problems before they give up the Smartlink system.
“We hope to recover some costs. The company (that built Smartlink) does not produce that equipment any more. Places like the Lowdon County School System still uses it. Maybe they will need to replace their equipment,” Marzano said.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.