City’s 911 Upgrade Is Almost $1 Billion Dollars Over Budget

February 6, 2015 | Christopher Inoa

New York City’s Department of Investigation has released a report blaming the Bloomberg administration for mishandling the upgrade to the city’s 911 communication system, which is reportedly almost $1 billion over budget.

The Emergency Communication Transformation Program (ECTP) upgrade was expected to cost $1.345 billion, with the upgrade scheduled for completion in 2017. In the report, the DOI says that the upgrade will not be completed until 2017 — a full decade later than planned — and will end up costing the city a little over $2 billion dollars. The report states that the program is already $700 billion over budget.

How is something that’s so vital to the city, so horribly mismanaged? The New York Observer states:

“The report paints a picture of a massive project with little leadership, resulting in continued squabbling between the very agencies the overhaul of the 911 system was designed to unify into the call answering centers. At the outset, the city ‘did not have a sufficiently clear vision of what it sought to achieve,” the report argues, and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications was given the role of overseeing the project, despite lacking the resources or experience to do it effectively. As a result, the FDNY and NYPD never truly accepted the department as the program manager, and the police and fire departments “failed to embrace shared solutions,’ the report alleges.”

The New York Daily News, which has been reporting about the mismanagement of the ECTP as far back as 2009, goes into further detail between the riff between the city’s police and fire departments:

City Hall abandoned its original plan to create a single unified dispatch system for police, fire and ambulances due to fierce resistance by the police and fire departments to give up control of their separate computer networks and dispatch systems — a digital age version of the historic battle of the badges. That change occurred despite repeated warnings from Gartner that separate systems would drive up costs and be less efficient.

The police system upgrade was completed in 2013. The upgrade to the FDNY’s system is still a few years away from completion.

Former Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway responded with a report of his own, which he sent to numerous new outlets, according to the Observer. In the report, Holloway writes “Due to ECTP, New Yorkers today have access to more reliable, faster, more accurate and more robust emergency services than ever before.”

According to the Daily News, Holloway wanted reports on the progress being made for major projects, color coding them: “green for on track, yellow for caution and red for major problems.” When the de Blasio administration began, many of those sites were listed as being on track, only for them to be immediately changed to yellow and red.

Former Mayor Bloomberg has yet to respond to the findings.

(Photo: World Bank Photo Collection)