Bill may ease path for public safety communications system

A new multimillion-dollar communications system that would link fire and police departments throughout Los Angeles County got some good news last week after a long series of setbacks that has forced stakeholders to relinquish millions in federal funding.

Legislation that gives the project limited exemption from environmental review passed both houses of the Legislature in a whirlwind effort to get the measure onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

“We received [a] significant stride forward in Sacramento,” Patrick Mallon, executive director of the authority for the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System, said at a meeting this week in downtown L.A. “We have great confidence that Gov. Brown will sign the legislation.”

If Brown signs AB 1486, it will take effect immediately because it’s considered emergency legislation, Mallon said.


The bill by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is designed to expedite construction of the system, which had to scrap its second request for proposals last month because federal legislation is blocking the purchase of $70 million of equipment needed to complete the project.

The agency is now putting together a third request, but time is of the essence since it’s already missed spending deadlines to keep some federal grants and more delays could cost the project more federal money.

The environmental review exemption was added on Aug. 24, just one week before the Legislature adjourned for the year.

“That was a full-court effort,” said William T. Fujioka, chairman of the communications agency and chief executive of Los Angeles County.


Without the legislation, Mallon said the agency would have faced a monumental challenge because construction of the first antenna site couldn’t begin until the last site had cleared environmental review.

Fujioka said if that requirement had remained in place, agency members “would probably be retired” before construction could start.

The legislation gives exemptions for antennas on police and fire stations, as well as existing publicly owned transmitter sites, Mallon said.

Stakeholders, though, agreed to keep antenna sites off school grounds amid concerns from some lawmakers, Mallon said.

Follow Mark on Twitter @LAMarkKellam.