(May 7, 2001) -- Less than a year after the City Council approved a highly touted "Strategic Plan" whose goals and action strategies included a new 911 Emergency Communications and Operations Center (ECOC) operational by December 2002, City Hall quietly breached that pledge by admitting its latest timeline for an operational ECOC is now Summer-Fall 2003 and could be later.
At the City Council's May 1, 2001 meeting, city staff said current plans call for the new facility to be operational in summer or fall, 2003.
Neither staff nor Councilmembers mentioned that in June, 2000, the Council voted to approve "Goals and Strategic Actions" for the Strategic Plan which include:
"§ 3 Maintain Strong Emergency Preparedness
"§ 3.1 The ECOC project be completed as expeditiously as possible, and that the new facility be placed in operation by December 2002."
In response to follow-up questioning by 5th district Councilmember Jackie Kell, LB Public Works Director Ed Shikada added, "Our current estimate is summer-fall . Ultimately there will be the issues during the construction themselves that need to be reviewed in detail and basically addressed, so there is some uncertainty on that tail end of the construction period, however that's basically the time frame we're looking at."
Councilwoman Kell then asked, "And we also sure that our present 911 center will be in working order until we have the new one. Is that correct?
Mr. Shikada answered, "That is correct" and discussed the change-over. His boss, City Manager Henry Taboada, then amplified:
"Councilmember if I could add. I think the basis of your question is will our system that is currently in place be operational during this entire period. To the extent that we can guarantee such a thing, we will do everything possible to maintain that system at its highest operational level throughout the entire construction period. There may be from time to time some outages that occur as a result of failed equipment or failed power sources but those we've managed over the last 10 or 15 years and I we think the system will, it's adequate enough to last until this particular center is opened."
In August 1996, when City Hall sought public approval for a Prop. 13 override for a tax to fund what it called the urgently needed project. Mayor O'Neill co-signed the ballot arguments for the tax, stating in part:
"Our 911 system is in crisis!" [and]
"FACT: The current system of the '60s and '70's technology cannot keep you and your family safe in 1990's reality of crime, earthquakes, floods, power outages, and other diasters.
FACT: The Mayor and entire City Council have made public safety their #1 priority."
City Hall's ballot argument also referred to a Council vote on a motion by then-Councilman, now Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal, publicly committing to complete the 911/ECOC project by December 31, 1999.
LB voters refused to approve the tax increase by the legally required 2/3 margin. City Manager James Hankla then devised alternative financing and had it in place only roughly six to eight months later.
Based on the Council's previously claimed schedule, the new ECOC should have been completed just six to eight months later than originally promised (roughly mid to late 2000).
In her 1999 "State of the City" address, Mayor O'Neill said, "In 1999 we will finally break ground on our new 911 Emergency Communications Center."
By December 1999, a city staff memo conceded City Hall's best case scenario for completing the 911/ECOC at its then-favored Stearns Park site was mid-2002.
In response to public opposition to the Stearns Park location, the Council directed staff to identify an alternative ECOC site. The site selected was the southeast corner of Redondo Ave. and Spring Street near the City's Water Treatment Plant.