Board members for the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS) last week declined to vote on a contract with Motorola Solutions to conduct more due diligence before potentially reconsidering the proposal to construct a public-safety LTE network for the region early next month.

“We had taken the proposed contract to the board [last Thursday], and they delayed action on it until March 6 to do some further analysis of the funding plan,” LA-RICS executive director Patrick Mallon said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’re diligently working on that to try to answer the board’s questions regarding the funding plan. Then, we will be taking the contract to them on March 6.”

Timing is important to LA-RICS, which is funding the 231-site project primarily with $154.6 million in federal grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Even with an NTIA extension, LA-RICS must complete the public-safety LTE project by Aug. 15, 2015.

“It’s still an extremely aggressive schedule,” Mallon said.

A primary reason why LA-RICS has a chance to complete the broadband network within the NTIA timetable is that the organization secured an exemption from rules contained in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), if it exclusively used sites that were publicly owned public-safety buildings or radio sites, Mallon said. LA-RICS planned to have 232 sites for the LTE network, but this language resulted in one of the sites being removed from the system, he said.

“We found out that one of the fire stations in Lancaster was actually on leased property,” Mallon said. “As it’s on leased property, then it falls out of the criteria [for the CEQA exemption], because all of our sites have to be publicly owned.”

LA-RICS is one of only four entities that has signed a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet to use the 20 MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 700 MHz band that is licensed to FirstNet for the purpose of supporting a nationwide broadband network for public safety. As a condition of that agreement, the LA-RICS project must integrate with the nationwide LTE network that FirstNet eventually will build.