NCFPD extends RCS agreement

The North County Fire Protection District (NCFPD) board approved a three-year extension of the Regional Communications System participating agency agreement

The NCFPD’s 4-0 vote Jan. 22, with one board member absent, extends the agreement to March 31, 2016. The initial three-year extension would have expired on March 13, 2013, without the additional extension.

“By the time this three-year extension is up, they will be embarking on a system update,” said NCFPD fire chief Bill Metcalf.

The county’s Sheriff’s Department administers the Regional Communications System (RCS) which includes local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, medical service providers, and others. The original agreement between the county and the cities and agencies was approved in March 1995 and was for a 15-year period. That initial agreement implemented the RCS while establishing the governance, administration, funding method, and costs for the regional radio system which provides communications services to public safety entities in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

In 2009, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to extend the participating agency agreement to March 2013, and in August 2012 the county supervisors approved the three-year extension to March 2016. The approximate annual cost to maintain and operate the RCS is $5,841,714; the county pays $1,879,062 of that while the other RCS agencies pay their share of $3,962,652.

In May 2012, the Board of Supervisors updated the county’s Capital Improvement Needs Assessment Program and added the replacement of the RCS to the projects requiring funding over the next five years. The needs assessment does not include funding for those projects but referred the programs to the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to determine timing and funding mechanisms to implement the individual projects. The replacement of the RCS has moved to the top of what are now seven partially funded and unfunded major (over $10 million) projects.

The project to design, procure, and install the next-generation system has an estimated cost of $100,000,000, and $6,218,628 of that has currently been funded. County staff members have worked with more than 100 public safety agencies and medical operations that use the current system as part of the effort to develop the requirements for the new system. “We’re just in the planning phase now,” said RCS manager Sue Willy.

In addition to the RCS, the North County Fire Protection District also has a VHS radio system as a backup and to communicate with agencies which do not utilize the RCS.

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