It seems York County's relatively new, $36 million emergency communication system has been one headache after another -- delays, reliability problems and finally a lawsuit filed by frustrated police officers.
But the latest development could top them all -- and it's not the fault of either local officials or the system's developers.
This one comes courtesy of Washington, D.C.
Last February, Congress passed a law reallocating 700MHz frequencies to public safety agencies. That's an improvement for them, fixing a problem identified in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
However, the law also requires public safety to surrender the "T-band" they now use so those frequencies can be auctioned off in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, many 911 systems, including York County's, were built specifically for T-band.
Switching isn't a matter of just turning a dial.
"It's a rebuild of the entire system," said Eric Bistline, director of the York County Department of Emergency Services. "You can't modify the equipment ... because the frequency spread is too wide."
Estimated cost of a new system: $30 million.
Yes, just a quarter less than the still-shiny current one.
The county would have to cover that cost up front, although the law also contains a provision under which the FCC would use the proceeds of the auction to compensate public service agencies that have to make changes.
But there are a lot of agencies across the country that use T-band frequencies, and Bistline is skeptical the auction will cover all of the costs for each one.
We suggest Congress see that it does.
If the proceeds alone don't cover it, then the winning bidders should be required to make up the difference.
The auction is to be held in nine years, and public safety agencies have two years after that to move out.
So there is time to ensure communities aren't saddled with the costs of this mandate -- especially York County, which is barely done working the kinks out of its state-of-the-art system.
Eleven years. If Congress gets started now it just might have a solution in time.