Supervisors Question Multimillion Dollar Communications System

The federal government has pitched in more than ten million dollars to the automated system project, or ASP, as it's called. USM is administering the grant money, and Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott are working to secure more funding.

Monday, the project coordinator, Julian Allen of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, explained the system to the supervisors. He told them within the next month, the jails in the three counties will be hooked together via computer.

By next summer, Allen says, it's expected that patrol officers will have laptops in their cars to help them access information too. The supervisors say they thought that was the original intent of the whole program and now they say it seems the system is taking on a bigger purpose.

Supervisor Larry Benefield questions why the county is trying to create brand new software when it's already available and being used by public safety agencies around the country.

District 2 Supervisor Larry Benefield says, "If it works there for them what is so different that we're trying to create that doesn't work already?"

Allen responded, "We are trying to help revolutionize the way that law enforcement gets new software and that's we determine what we want the software to do, not them show up at our front door and say give us the key we got something' that'll do what you need it to do."

The supervisors also want to know about any future hidden costs of the system, but Allen told them he couldn't answer those questions.

Supervisor Marlin Ladner says no one questions that enhanced communication is great but he says the supervisors are afraid of some costs they may not know about.

Ladner says, "What are the hidden cost that's probably in the future that the federal monies are not gonna pick up that you may be sitting here before this board one day saying we need this and it's gonna cost you this either to maintain the operation or to even get the operation going."

Allen told the board he doesn't have all the answers to the supervisors' questions. But he assured them he'll get the information for them as they continue to monitor the progress of getting the system up and running.