The Failures of Precision

I know enough about local government to know that, in fact, city employees are sometimes less than candid on issues. Typically though, I think this is done not to mislead, but to direct the conversation and steer the conversation away from rabbit holes that some elected people love to explore.

That may be the case with the emergency communications system in Macon, but Matt Barnwell’s article leaves a bad taste in my mouth with this part:

Tourand and Taylor say they’ve been talking about the need for a new system for the past few years. They recently dialed up the volume, telling a Macon City Council committee that lightning strikes during a mid-July storm had twice minimized the current system’s beneficial use for periods of 15 to 20 minutes.

A bolt of electricity shot out of the sky and nailed one of the two air-conditioning units that cool the building that houses the communications equipment. On another stormy occasion, winds blew a microwave transmitter off balance, interfering with the tower’s transmission.

In situations like those, redundancies prevent a total system blackout. There are two other sites in the county in addition to the south Macon location that can keep communications online, and each contains multiple versions of crucial components.

I’m going to be bold and say I’m the most tech savvy member of Macon’s City Council, given my job. I’m also going to say that I agree 100% the present communications system must be replaced. It’s not enough to say it is outmoded. The system is primitive and there are no parts manufacturers for it.

But the critically important bit of information in my mind is the statement on the trouble. I was at the meeting where this outage was discussed. At no time did anyone say it was the air conditioner that was hit. I believe they used the word “system” as being hit. At no time did they say the wind wobbled the tower.

There is a big difference in my mind between saying the air conditioner went out, which caused the system to go out, and saying lightening hit the system itself. The air conditioning going out would most likely affect any new system.

And here is the problem with this. By not accurately conveying the facts of the incident to Council, but doing so to the Telegraph, there will now be questions raised that could have been dealt with or mitigated initially.

There is a trust issue involved. I will personally wonder from here on out if, when we are getting briefed on the system, we are getting full facts and candid disclosures

Again, I understand that if they said, initially, that the air conditioner went out and the wind wobbled the tower, the questions would have been related to the air conditioner and the tower, not the system. Those questions would have distracted from the present, real need to replace the system.

But now the different answers do the same thing.