The Council approves the draft early warning system

Paradise City Council unanimously approved the construction of 21 early warning towers across the city on Tuesday.

The 21 towers are estimated to be around 42 feet tall and would stretch across the ridge into the city limits. The nearly $2.7 million project will be 75% funded by the Federal Emergency Management Act, the Governor of California’s Office of Emergency Services and Risk Mitigation Grant Program funds . The remaining 25% will come from grants such as the Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery funds or the city’s general fund.

Colette Curtis, director of economic recovery and development, told the council that preliminary construction will begin this fall, with the tower installation being built in February or March 2023. She told the council that she expects what training begins next year for staff and those who will run the system. In May 2023, testing of the system is expected to take place, after which the city will take control of the system and be fully operational by next year’s fire season.

However, Curtis told the board he could be moved up.

“I want to note that it’s a bit of a late schedule that we would do, we’re doing everything we can to speed this up sooner than that, but it’s as late as possible for it to happen,” she said. declared.

She also said it was an important step in the city’s recovery from the camp fire.

“It’s such an important milestone for our community for our safety for our mental well-being knowing it’s here,” she said.

And while the approval was unanimous, three board members had questions about the system.

Councilor Steve “Woody” Culleton had questions about the aesthetics of the towers, noting that there was a time when cell phone towers were just simple steel towers which he described as “aesthetically offensive” until until they begin to be built like trees.

“Are these things just going to be a big ugly pole with a bunch of horns on it,” he asked. “Are they going to make them pretty?”

Brian Solecki of the Paradise Recovery and Economic Development Department confirmed that it would be the Steel Towers, which was the only real option the town had.

Curtis said she wasn’t part of the original request, but the city focused only on function and safety as top priorities.

City Manager Kevin Phillips told Culleton that other municipalities with the towers don’t look like a decorative tree.

Councilor Greg Bolin wanted to know the overflow factor for Magalia and areas just outside the city limits.

Curtis said she couldn’t specifically address the bleeding factors in those areas, but indicated she could see some of it happening. She also answered questions about Magalia.

“We get a lot of questions about Magalia and their plans, and can it expand there,” she said, adding that funding for this system is for Paradise and would only be installed there. in Paradise. “However, we strongly support Butte County in their efforts to also implement an emergency early warning system in their community. And so, our intention is that if and when this is installed, it will also integrate with this system. Thus, he would talk to each other and be integrated.

In the event of a campfire-wide emergency, Phillips told the council they would all be lit. Yet the towers have the distinction of being lit individually in order to evacuate specific areas affected by an emergency such as a fire.

The towers have the ability to have cameras on them, leading to questions from Councilman Rose Tryon regarding privacy, as some of the towers are in residential areas. Tryon wanted to know how they would work and when they would be turned on and off?

Phillips responded that cameras at this stage are optional and would only be installed in residential areas if needed.

Solecki said the cameras would work much like the wildfire warning cameras that PG&E County operates, where private homes are masked off camera.

But he also pointed out that they hadn’t made the decision to place the cameras anywhere on any of the towers, he said there would be a conversation with Paradise Police and Cal County Fire-Butte before making these decisions.

Curtis then pointed out that some of those residential areas wouldn’t require a camera.

“They’re really primarily for emergency traffic so we can see what traffic is doing to understand where we need to redirect evacuation traffic,” she said. “So that’s the intention. So if there’s a place that just isn’t serving that purpose, we wouldn’t have a camera there.

HQE in Temecula, Calif., will build the winning towers over the other finalist, ATI Systems. In the staff report to council, staff said: “ATI provided additional information to the city in a letter dated June 16, 2022. The letter was not a protest against the offers, as there is no vehicle of this type regarding this type of tender.”

On Tuesday, Robert McLaughlin, head of ATI Systems, emailed the newspaper saying it was indeed a letter of protest to the city over the alert system’s decision.

“After the selection of the finalists (ATI Systems and HQE), a virtual meeting was organized for the two companies to present their solutions. Shortly after the virtual reunion, Paradise announced that they had decided to move forward with HQE. This decision was very surprising for ATI Systems,” wrote McLaughlin. “We then scheduled a second virtual meeting with the Paradise committee to discuss our concerns. Among our concerns were the lack of HQE experience in implementing community alert systems and a higher price tag (over $200,000 more than ATI).

He said that after that meeting, the company sent a protest letter to the city listing the concerns that were presented to the committee. He alleged that the city or its legal department did not respond to the letter.

In the letter, the company points out that it also successfully protested another contract awarded to HQE at Laughlin Air Force Base in March 2022. The company claimed that HQE used misinformation to obtain the contract and that the US Air Force denied extending the contract. contract to HQE and entrusted it to ATI.

In his letter to the city, McLaughlin claimed that the competing company is located in Boston, Massachusetts, is a reseller of products and does not manufacture its own.

“They buy speakers from a German company called SiRCom who manufacture their speakers in Germany,” he wrote, saying FEMA requires any new FEMA Risk Mitigation Grant to purchase products made in the USA. “Furthermore, to our knowledge, SiRCom has been in litigation for many years in Germany.”

In its staff report, staff said that after a review of the information in ATI’s letter and further investigation into HQE Systems’ qualifications, the review board’s recommendation remains unchanged.