Earlier this month, the Mobile County Communications District got its first look at a plan to utilize nearly $778,000 of leftover grant funding that’s been sitting untouched in a county bank account for more than a year. Originally part of a $3.6 million grant from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the money was intended to fund a radio system that would allow first responders in Mobile and Baldwin counties to communicate with one another. While Baldwin County had its half of the system built by Motorola, MCCD opted to use its longtime contractor, Harris Corp. Ultimately, Harris issued a $777,925 refund for its work building that system, which to date has not been used in Mobile County. Though the project predates current MCCD director Charlie McNichol, he recently explained it “kind of got put in neutral” when the board decided to overhaul the county’s primary emergency radio network — a $40 million endeavor to build a P25 Phase II system Harris is still in the process of constructing. The MCCD board didn’t officially bring up the project or the leftover funds again with Baldwin County until December 2015, when Mobile County Commissioners said they would work with MCCD to find “an agreeable use” for the money. Because any use would require approval from ALEA, the process hit a significant speed bump when former ALEA Secretary Spency Collier was terminated...Read More
Mobile County Communications District
A lot has changed at the Mobile County Communications District over the past year, and those changes have some members of the MCCD board reconsidering an agreement made by their predecessors. Currently, the board is weighing whether to make good on a promise to buy the current facility used by the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) on McGregor Avenue before it’s abandoned by 2018. Back in May, county officials announced a $10 million plan to replace the 64-year-old facility with a new emergency operations center on the same campus as the MCCD Communications Center in West Mobile. The funding for the project is coming from a hodgepodge of sources, but in March 2015, the MCCD voted to throw its own $1.5 million behind the project by agreeing to purchase the EMA’s current facility. Mobile Public Safety Director Richard Landolt was appointed to the MCCD board after that vote was cast. Landolt serves on the EMA board as well, and Last week he raised a year-old question: Why does the MCCD need a backup facility? “One of the rationales used in last year’s meeting was that we needed a backup building, and I’m not so sure we need a backup building,” Landolt said. “I realize we all wear a lot of hats in here, and one of the hats I wear is on the executive board of the county...Read More
After combing through a strong list of candidates from around the country, board members found a new leader for the Mobile County Communication District (MCCD) already sitting at the table — this morning the board voted 4-1 to promote Acting Director Charlie McNichol to the job full time beginning July 1. Seventeen applications were received and reviewed by a personnel committee chaired by board member Trey Oliver, who “put together a process” that ultimately whittled the list down to three who were presented to the full board. During the regular meeting May 12, the board went into executive session to discuss the final candidates to replace former Director Gary Tanner, who the board terminated following an internal investigation of the district’s management practices. “I will make a motion that, of the top three candidates, Mr. Charlie McNichol be approved as the executive director,” board member Robert Adams said. “It will be a one-year probation. This would take effect July 1 after the personnel committee and the board can have sufficient time to review salary, job description and related matters.” Adams was joined in supporting McNichol by board members Jeff Reeves, Cynthia Coleman and President Stephen Bowden, while Oliver abstained from voting. The vote in opposition came from retired Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who currently serves as the city of Mobile’s executive director of public safety. Though the personnel committee...Read More
After searching for funding for nearly a decade, Mobile County Commissioners say they’ve found the $10 million needed to construct an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that will serve as the base of operations for local governments during natural or man-made disasters. An EOC is a centralized location used for the coordination of response and recovery processes during an emergency, but county officials have long called the current facility used by the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) inadequate. Located on McGregor Avenue, the facility was first constructed in 1952. Deputy EMA Director Mike Evans said the existing facility is functional, but can be constraining due to its size. Evans said the 7,500-square-foot building averaged 80 people when fully active during hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. If all goes according to plan, Commissioners will vote to advertise bids for a more spacious and “attractive” facility at their next regular meeting May 9. The construction of the facility is scheduled to be completed in 2018. Under the current plans for construction, the new facility would increase to 32,000 square feet to include more adequate sleeping, kitchen and restroom accommodations as well technical upgrades that have evolved since the facility on McGregor was built 60 years ago. According to Evans, the new features would help officials better serve Mobile County’s 421,000 residents during a disaster of any kind. “Mobile’s a large, populated area...Read More
After months in secrecy, the report from an independent investigation into the Mobile County Communications District has been released to Lagniappe — a six-page document detailing poor management practices, backroom deals and unchecked spending. Though the investigation ended in September 2015, the report wasn’t presented to board members until Feb. 11 and its disclosure came only minutes before the board voted unanimously to terminate the contract of then-director Garry Tanner. Now it appears several items in the report revolved around Tanner’s management and his oversight of a $40 million communications enhancement project awarded to Harris Corporation in 2013. One...Read More
About The Author
Jason Johnson originally hails from Elba, Alabama, and graduated summa cum laude from Troy University in 2011. He’s been a reporter for Lagniappe since 2014, where he covers an array of topics with a focus on county government, local courts and education. Previously, Jason worked for the Southeast Sun (Enterprise, Alabama), the Alexander City Outlook and 94.7 WTBF FM (Troy, Alabama). He’s also been recognized by the Alabama Press Association with designations in general excellence, photography and education reporting. In his spare time, Jason is a guitarist and drummer who enjoys the benefit of regularly playing with musicians better than himself.