I have been informally involved with a regional afg grant that our county fire association applied for in fy2010 for narrowband radio upgrades for our entire county.
Our project was awarded and purchased equipment and installation services from a vendor who had equipment that was more cost efficient and met our project specs better than offerings from other vendors. To date, this equipment has all been installed but is not functioning properly and the vendor is essentially washing his hands of the situation blaming the radio manufacturer, lack of manpower, software upgrades, antennae lengths, etc.
My question is, since this equipment was purchased with FEMA funding, can the association get FEMA involved in pressuring the vendor into some sort of solution to our problems? The association has considered looking into legal action against the vendor but really does not have any funds to do so as they are a non profit charitable organization comprised of members from all county fire departments.
What do you all think? I am getting pulled into this after the fact and was not involved with the original grant submission. Any thoughts would be appreciated!
Well lets not get into the issues of what they shoud have done to prevent his from happening, that is obviously water under the bridge and you are not the first this has happened to nor will you be the last. I would certainly call your FPS and let them know what is going on but, bottom line here is its time to call in the legal eagles here.
Originally Posted by MEPOFIRE
That why all contracts should have a performance/acceptance holdback. You retain 33% of the funding until the system is up & running to customers satisfaction.
At this point you should be checking with your county govt to see if their legal dept can assist you in this matter. Depending on what state you are in , you might get the state attny generals office to assist you also.
A phone call to your AFG rep might be a good idea as they will ultimately get involved if the project does not get completed within the POP.
You are not the first to run into this problem of the salesman promising the moon & stars when selling a communications system. Only to find out that they didn't have a clue about what they were doing in designing a proper functioning system.
Actually the issue lies with the applicant to ensure all steps were taken to use a vendor that can complete the system. DHS won't get involved since it's not their problem, it's an issue between the vendor and whoever signed the contract since it doesn't matter whose money paid for it. They were hired to meet certain criteria in a contract, and either they met them and the contract had loopholes in it, or they haven't met the contract by delivering a working system. If it's the former, oh well. If it's the latter, it's a valid spot for inserting lawyers since they have not held up their end of the legal bargain. After all, the vendor should have known what they were getting into with the specs that were defined so they should have known that antennas would need to be lengthened, towers added, certain radios purchased etc, etc. Every other commo project we've been involved in has identified that. Hence the reason a lot of folks hire independent engineers to study the issues involving terrain, distances, signal strength etc to ensure that a spec design will actually solve the communications issues. Money well spent IMHO, since it's cheaper to do that up front than try and band-aid a solution later.
,,, or incur the unexpected legal fees to fight the battle in the courts over several years with only the chance of recoveirng those legal costs in a judgement. Of course all the while you are also without a working radio system.Failure to plan, is a plan for failure!
I know a guy, BSEE Two Way radio guy will work (mostly) for donations of used fire department equipment to his and area fire departments.
The first thing you have to do is identify what is wrong and why......
Thanks for the replies. I have asked for copies of any/all documentation the association has regarding the agreed upon product implementation and scope of work for this project to review and see where things actually stand. They actually did have a comm. assessment done before putting out to bid which I wil be reviewing as well. The association is understandably frustrated with the whole situation and has engaged another vendor to help sort out things in the mean time. I am increasingly suspicious of some croneyism here after seeing our city/county dispatch supervisor out with the problem vendors company president at an upscale restaurant with their wives having a nice evening out...
I am going to recommend that they reach out to their AFG rep just to keep things on the up and up and see what guidance (if any) they can offer. I am also going to inquire with the county attorneys office as to what would be willing to help with on the legal end. I wish I had been involved from the very beginning. I am an IT engineer and project implementation manager for my day job and deal with big projects all the time. I feel like the outcome could have been different with different/better equipped people running point.
Brian: what I meant to say was when the pop is over the AFG folks are going to want to see a functioning radio system that they paid for ,:::or they might want their money back.
Mepofire: It's not an uncommon thing to see someone in a higher level of authority that seems to be connected to a vendor at times. Some things just don't appear to be above board.
We just had the head of the State turnpike authority plead guilty to diverting funds for his personal use.
That's definitely what they want to see, but if there's a contract issue wrapped up in legal wranglings they can't do anything to the applicant or anyone else since it's considered a "live" issue at that point. Now fo course the final payment shouldn't have been made to anyone until a completed system was put in place, but that's not a DHS issue, that was the applicant and vendor relationship. Like some others have mentioned, contract language should have had some performance requirements in it, they force it in trucks, and normal consumer law covers regular equipment, meaning we paid for gear with this that and the other protection but was given something else. Easy remedies. Here it sounds like someone (vendor) is pointing fingers everywhere for not taking all of the factors of what he/she is blaming for the faults. If they knew certain radios don't work with certain antennas, or whatever other excuse they have then that's their fault for bidding and using them. Contract language/spec submitted should have had something in there that says it will function.
Not a given that can blame the supplier (or some salesman). And commo/narrowband projects are going to be an issue. FD often operating outside of our area of expertise and knowledge. Analysis of existing coverage for paging, handhelds, mobiles, repeaters, microwave links, requirements for the same after NB and looking a frequency and channel changes; licenses changes and renewals is not amateur hour.
My County is fortunate doing it "right" (or mostly). Hired a radio consulting engineer about 7yr ago to prepare a conversion plan (which the County then thru on the shelf). A resident radio systems engineer for a tier 1 Defense manufacturer volunteer worked with the Co Fire Officers Assoc to prepare regional grant app for the Fire/EMS equipment needed. Same guy wrote RFP, bid, and plan install (we hired him to administer the grants). All is working well because we have a knowledgeable professional radio systems engineer working the project. We're getting by really inexpensively because he is donating hundreds of hours of his time.
Did "you" educate yourself and properly spec a system (thats going be a very long indepth RFQ backed by a formal study of your system NOT a 2 page request for quote)? Then hire the most qualified vendor. Or take the cheapest (you say "cost efficient" which is seldom the vendor that best meets the spec).
Or just call some company to install whatever they thought would be appropriate?
One project manager in charge or some kind of committee?
If vendor is fed up with the mess I'd guess you're screwed short term. Every legitimate radio vendor and mfg is going to be totally overloaded with work for the next 2years (note that would be well past Dec 31, 2012). You best bet is to find a consulting radio engineer, that like the brand equipment you purchase (id there is such), hire him to figure it out. And get your vendor back in the game (if they are even qualified). Whatever it costs. And it's going to cost more than if you'd hired him before you started.
Fire info is dead on with his comments
Designing and testing a complete radio system takes a qualified radio engineer and cannot be completed by your average radio"geek" or salesman. We used the services of two engineers and a microwave engineer before we were finished.
It took us over two years from start of the design project and talking to several different engineers. We came up with a design and equipment list all priced out , & then started the budget process and grant writing. This took two years to get out to bid and installed . Then again we were not under the gun of a govt deadline.
We went from an 80% coverage to 99.9% coverage, so I guess the time spent was well worth it.
The cost of the engineer should be included up front in the budget.
The vendor that was chosen is a semi-local vendor with a decent reputation in the region. They were not a complete unknown to the association at the time the bid requests went out. The vendors references were checked as the association had never done business with them before, and everything checked out fine.
Being a professional IT dude and project manager, I see an issue with the overall size of the vendor, and the distance the vendors home base (1.5 hours) is from the departments the association represents. Typically a smaller service provider is going to have trouble servicing clients that far away from their home base; the travel time chews up staff and tends to limit the ability of the vendor to provide quality control with multiple techs over the course of a multi-month implementation.
This unfortunately was also project management by committee. The association did not appoint a defacto project manager from the membership and the vendor did not have a single point of contact for project mangement on their end. I am sure that this is another part of the reason for the really bad relationship that has now developed between the two parties- no one ever knew what the other party had said or promised and no one ever knew when the conversations happened, unless the whole committee was together with a rep from the vendor.
Although this vendor was the most "cost-efficient", their equipment did meet our specs better than the other vendors who submitted bids (radio wattage, durability ratings (mil-spec), water resistance (ip 67), etc). We dont think the equipment is junk, it has moments when it performs really well- and moments where it sucks really bad- like cant talk to another crew across a burning corn field bad. Just need to figure out why is sucks when it sucks.
There is a "Come to Jesus" meeting scheduled between the vendor and the radio committee in the coming weeks. The radio committee will be getting together to review all of the documentation from the assessment that was done, the rfp that was developed, the project scope documentation from the vendor, etc in the mean time. Additionally, the association is engaging another local venor that we have history with for consultation and independent review of the system.
I am hopeful that these meetings will be productive and that some positive outcome can still be had without going to our "nuclear option" of legal action.
As I said before, I wish I had been involved with this whole situation from the beginning. Had this been gone about in a more correct fashion, the outcome would have never been in doubt.
Again, I appreciate all of your input, guys!