WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
The Bloomberg Administration is giving Verizon and its sub-contractor a second chance to get the software right for the city's makeover of its antiquated 911 call system.
This is the latest setback for a project that is years behind schedule comes just a week after the NYPD's point man on 911, Deputy Chief Charles Dowd, said Verizon's subcontractor still had not licked the problem of heavy 911 call volume.
Last October, city officials went on the record saying they were "extremely dissatisfied" because Verizon and its subcontractor PlantCML had failed to deliver on the contract as promised.
One source close to the process, as well as reporting back in October, said the city was even contemplating pulling the plug on Verizon.
When completed the program called Vesta will help integrate the city's police, fire and EMS dispatching while providing operators with the location of the 911 callers.
Now a spokesman for the Bloomberg Administration said the two companies will have until the end April to complete the necessary testing and June for delivery.
“The city has directed Verizon to develop a remediation plan for delivering a fully-tested, operational Vesta system by the end of June," wrote Jason Post, a Bloomberg spokesman. "We are now closely monitoring Verizon’s progress to ensure that all deliverables and critical milestones are being met."
But Gerry Hauer who served in top emergency management and first repsonder posts in both the Koch and Giuliani administrations said the Bloomberg Administration should be taking a harder line when contractors and their subs let them down.
“Verizon has very little in the way of incentive to do a better job, because the city – other than the political posturing – does very little to look for alternatives,” Hauer said.
On this contract, the Bloomberg Administration insists it is keeping a tight hold on the purse strings. It has only paid Verizon $21 million on the $185 million contract. And the Bloomberg Administrations said it will also pursue compensation for the delays in delivering Vesta.
In a statement, Verizon owned up to some of the problems but resolved to see the contract through.
"After initial challenges with the Vesta software, Verizon presented a new plan, with new timetables, to the city, and is now meetings the objectives and milestones in that plan," John Bonomo with Verizon wrote. "As part of this process we are conducting enhanced testing to ensure that the software meets the city’s rigorous standards before it is implemented."
Overall, the larger 911 redesign is now expected to cost hundreds of millions more than projected and is three years behind schedule. Problems with handling high call volume continue to be a problem even as recently as the December blizzard.