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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

Pala property to be acquired for regional communications system


Last updated 3/29/2018 at 9:40pm

The County of San Diego will be acquiring a 12.9-acre parcel in Pala which will be used for a Regional Communications System radio facility.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0, March 13, to approve the purchase of the property from First Service Financial for the appraised value of $525,000.

“The new Regional Communications System is critical to improving and increasing communications capabilities between our first responders across all jurisdictions,” Supervisor Bill Horn said. “The purchase of this property is instrumental in ensuring radio coverage throughout the region.”

The Regional Communications System which allows emergency and public safety agencies to communicate with each other was established in 1995. The County of San Diego and the participating agencies realized that the RCS would eventually approach the end of its useful life and require replacement. In June 2015, the county supervisors authorized the director of the county’s Department of Purchasing and Contracting to issue a request for proposals to replace the existing RCS, to award a contract upon successful negotiations and determination of a fair and reasonable price and to amend the contract as required to reflect changes to services and funding allocation subject to the approval of the Sheriff. Motorola Solutions was awarded the contract in June 2016.

The RCS upgrade includes three phases. Phase I was the system design and planning phase, which included detailed technical designs, project planning and identification of new radio facilities. Phase II is the implementation of the new technology at existing RCS facilities, consisting of the procurement of the new radio system hardware and software, the replacement of the existing hardware with the new equipment and the migration of dispatch center equipment and user radios to the new system. Phase III is the new site development, the construction of facilities and the integration into the system. The system completion is expected to occur during fiscal year 2018-2019.

Phase III includes seven subphases, so each of those subphases may be exercised individually. Motorola and the sheriff's department worked together to identify potential sites which will provide the required geographic coverage. A radio facility currently operates at the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad, which is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2018. The decommissioning is expected to result in the removal of the 400-foot-high exhaust stack which currently provides public safety radio coverage to surrounding communities, and multiple coastal sites were identified to ensure continued coverage for those areas.

In November 2016, the board of supervisors exercised a contract option for facility improvements at the Harmony Hill site in southeast Escondido and authorized negotiations, to be ratified by subsequent board of supervisors action, for the purchase and lease of sites for RCS support in seven areas including one site on Camp Pendleton and one or two sites in unincorporated northeast San Diego County.

Two June 2017 board actions addressed desired sites. One 5-0 vote approved a lease agreement with the Department of the Navy for a radio facility on San Onofre Peak at Camp Pendleton, and the other 5-0 vote authorized a contract option with the city of Carlsbad to construct a new radio facility on that city’s Ellery Water Reservoir property. The RCS facility on Camp Pendleton will utilize a 40-foot by 40-foot area off Skyline Road adjacent to the Coast Guard Rescue 21 site, which is within the Coast Guard radio communications compound.

County staff identified the Pala parcel which was listed for sale. The parcel currently includes a single-family house and two wireless communication towers. The property is northwest of Pala Casino and can be accessed from state Route 76.

First Service Financial was only interested in pursuing a sale of the entire 12.9 acres. The county will not need that entire property for the new RCS radio site, and various options will be assessed for the portion which is not needed to construct and maintain the radio site.

In September, staff from the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services reviewed the location, purpose and extent of the potential acquisition and made a finding that the project would be consistent with the county’s general plan. The county’s Department of Environmental Health reviewed the potential transaction for hazardous materials on the property, and a survey for asbestos or lead was determined not to be required. The director of the county’s Department of General Services entered into an option agreement with First Service Financial, Jan. 23.

The county will also pay $10,000 for staff and appraisal expenses and $2,500 for closing and title costs.

The board of supervisors voted 5-0, Feb. 13, to set the March 13 hearing date to purchase the property.


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