Subject: Setback for city's 911 system overhaul: VESTA DOA
Setback for city's 911 system overhaul: Officials ready to cancel contract
with failed system
By Juan Gonzalez ‹ Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 ŚThe New York Daily Newsą
Mayor Bloomberg's massive $2 billion effort to centralize and upgrade the
city's 911 system has suffered another big setback.
A key computer program from a Verizon subcontractor has failed final quality
reviews in recent weeks, and top officials are on the verge of canceling the
contract and finding a new vendor, several sources working on the project
told the Daily News.
"When the new software gets saturated with calls for EMS and police, it
can't handle the load and the system starts dropping calls," said one source
involved in the testing process. In any "big public emergency" like a
blackout or terrorist attack, "it would just break down," the source said.
The new software, known as Vesta, is supposed to automatically give a 911
operator the number and location of each emergency call, while also
recording the call.
City Hall rolled out Vesta for the Fire Department last October to much
fanfare. This was shortly after the department's dispatchers moved into a
new Unified Call Taking Center in downtown Brooklyn.
That new center, known as PSAC 1, is supposed to save valuable minutes by
eliminating the cumbersome practice of a caller to 911 having to repeat the
same emergency information, first to a police operator, then to a fire or
EMS and Police Department call takers, who handle far more requests than the
FDNY, still have not switched to the new Vesta system because of all the
NYPD operators were first slated to move into PSAC 1 in March2008. Since
then, former Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler pushed back the deadline several times,
refusing to approve the move until he was sure the $195 million
Verizon/Vesta system was trouble-free.
Skyler left the administration before that happened. Meanwhile, the city's
point person for all 911 computer contracts, Paul Cosgrave, the commissioner
of the Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications,
resigned in December.
Cosgrave's departure came two months after The News revealed that the entire
911 modernization project was years behind schedule and had ballooned in
cost from $1.3 billion to $2 billion.
Cosgrave's replacement, Carole Wallace Post, has since tried to clean up the
911 mess she inherited.
A confidential report from an interagency task force concluded in mid-August
that tests of the Verizon and Vesta system showed it still had not met more
than 400 of some 1,700 "requirements."
Among the options the task force proposed was ordering Verizon to replace
Vesta with another vendor, or getting rid of Verizon and Vesta - a rare
If Verizon is bounced, it would become the second major firm removed from
the 911 project. Earlier this year, Hewlett-Packard was removed as the main
system integrator because of poor performance and huge cost overruns.
Asked about the recommendations on Verizon and Vesta, Post issued a written
statement yesterday through her spokesman Eddie Borges:
"We have not made a decision. However, we are extremely dissatisfied that
Verizon has failed to deliver on this contract. There is no room for
anything less than a 100% success rate with this program. Verizon has
presented us with some options; we are evaluating them."
Verizon has been paid $21 million and has received no money for the past
three years because of the continuing problems, Borges said.
One thing's certain: Bringing in a new vendor will add to the project's
already mind-boggling price tag.