Several senators sharply questioned why the Bureau of Information Technology picked one 911 radio communication tower system design, implemented another and is now back to the first design, during budget hearings Tuesday. BIT Executive Director Reuben Molloy pushed back hard, saying there were sound reasons for those decisions. The tower network in question provides radio communication for all first responders in the territory.
"The plan you want to put in place now, it was the original plan, yes?" said Sen. Clifford Graham.
"There was a logical reason for the plan and it was a good decision," Molloy replied. According to Molloy, BIT had developed a comprehensive tower plan, designed to provide the most complete and effective coverage. But, prior to his joining BIT in 2012, the original tower design was delayed due to financing and difficulties and delays acquiring land, and the territory’s new E-911 call center was nearing completion while tower construction sites had "yet to come to fruition,” he said.
BIT came up with an alternative tower site design system to maximize the resources that already existed, so the 911 call centers could go live, he said, adding that the alternative had "less than optimal geographic coverage," so implementing the original tower network design will ultimately give better service.
Molloy presented BIT’s Fiscal Year 2014 General Fund budget request of $2.4 million – a decrease of 5 percent from FY13. It is also requesting $2.4 million for technology infrastructure maintenance and software licensing, for a total budget of $4.7 million. Of that, $848,000 is for wages and salaries for 17 positions. Employer contributions for Social Security, Medicare and benefits are budgeted at $327,000. The bureau is requesting $63,000 for supplies and $972,000 for "other services and charges."
That last sum includes $486,000 for communications; $248,000 for rent; $96,000 for professional services; and an array of smaller charges. Utilities are budgeted at $155,000, of which $150,000 is for electricity at the territory’s data centers.
V.I. Taxicab Commission Executive Director Judith Wheatley also presented that body’s proposed budget to the committee Tuesday. The governor had recommended a Taxi License Fund appropriation of $634,507 for FY14. This represents an increase of $938 above the FY13 appropriation of $632,569. The funds are composed of fees and fines collected by the commission.
Wages and salaries take up $394,248 of the budget, with employer Social Security, Medicare and benefit contributions consuming another $165,759. Supplies are budgeted at $22,000 and other services and charges at $51,500.
Wheatley requested a total budget of $692,038, which is $58,531 more than the governor’s FY14 recommendation.
No votes were taken during the information gathering budget hearing.