Despite having more than a year to plan for the NATO summit, the DuPage County sheriff's office must borrow interoperable radios to be able to communicate with other police, fire and emergency departments throughout the county during this weekend's gathering in downtown Chicago.
Sheriff's officials on Thursday were praising the fact that deputies will have access to DuPage's interoperable emergency radio network, thanks to other agencies lending spare radios.
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But Pat O'Shea, county board member and chairman of the county's Emergency Telephone System Board, says the sheriff's office never should have needed to borrow radios in the first place.
O'Shea said the department is supposed to get about $3.5 million in radios, radio consoles and other related equipment as part of the county subscribing to Motorola's STARCOM21 dispatch system.
But Sheriff John Zaruba didn't sign a required intergovernmental agreement with the ETSB until just recently, O'Shea said.
"The sheriff has had his (agreement) for 16 months and just signed it two weeks ago," O'Shea said.
That was too late for the county board, which must sign off on the agreement before it can become official. An effort to get the pact approved by the board's judicial and public safety committee was unsuccessful this week when several questions about funding were raised.
"The people assigned to this project (at the sheriff's office) were not watching it whatsoever," O'Shea said. "They were warned time and time again not to be late. But they continued to put everything off, and they just dropped the ball entirely."
James Kruse, the sheriff's administrative chief, said he couldn't provide a direct answer about why Zaruba didn't sign the agreement sooner. However, he said, there wasn't any procrastination on the part of the sheriff's office.
Instead of responding to O'Shea's comments, Kruse focused on how deputies will have interoperable radios during the NATO summit because of collaboration with other departments. He wasn't sure how many radios the sheriff's office is borrowing.
"Everything is fine," Kruse said. "We're ready. We're prepared. And whatever happens, we will be more than able to respond."
The STARCOM21 system is being used by agencies around the state, including the Illinois State Police. As an affiliate of the system, DuPage towns have the ability to communicate throughout the system on a local, countywide and statewide basis.
As for when the sheriff's office will get its radios and other equipment, the county board committee is expected to revisit the proposed intergovernmental agreement next month.