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Australian company wins award over 'home-grown' firm

Friday, August 23, 2002 by

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will purchase a new aircraft noise monitoring system from the Lochard Corp. of Melbourne, Australia under a contract approved by the City Council yesterday. The Council voted 5-2 to award the million dollar contract to Lochard, which has a US office in Stoneham, Massachusetts, on the recommendation of city staff. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Raul Alvarez wanted the contract to go to BAE Systems, which has about 800 employees in Austin, according to Larry Deuser, principal scientist and director of signal and image processing for the company.

ABIA Director Jim Smith told the Council the monitoring system would provide the final component of their plan for airport noise abatement. The first two parts, prevention and mitigation, are being implemented, he said.

The system includes permanent off-site noise monitoring terminals as well as portable monitors with microphones that can distinguish between different types of aircraft, which helps to identify any planes not staying on the track. According to a memo from Purchasing Officer Sue Brubaker, “Lochard presented their digital microphones to measure aircraft noise, which is a new technology in the airport noise monitoring industry. The digital microphone . . . will easily determine aircraft noise events versus community noise events.” Lochard had superior hardware and software and the evaluating team recommended the company unanimously, even after BAE Systems was given a second interview, according to Brubaker.

Deuser, who was on the City Council from 1981 to 1983, said Tracor, the first Fortune 500 Company to locate in Austin, became a part of Marconi Electric Systems five years ago. Three years ago, Marconi merged with British Aerospace, creating BAE Systems, he said. He told In Fact Daily that his company’s proposal would have been Internet-based. The other system is not. “Other than that, there’s not really a dime’s worth of difference between the two systems.” He said the two companies would be competing again in the future, noting that Lochard’s system is used at DFW, O’Hare Airport in Chicago, “But we have all three New York airports, BWI (Baltimore), Philadelphia and Orange County, California.”

Howard Word of BAE said his company scored 92 points on the city’s matrix, while Lochard scored 91 points. The interview earned the latter an additional four points, giving Lochard the higher score. He said BAE has been installing noise monitoring systems in airports for the past 25 years and stressed the local ties of the company.

Robert Brodecky, vice president of Lochard, told the Council that Lochard’s only business is creation of the airport noise systems and it is the only company in the world devoted solely to that business.

Goodman said the two competitors appeared on paper to be “virtually identical.” She said she would choose BAE because both were well qualified, “But if you can call the genius down the street it can’t hurt. So I’m drawn to our own homegrown . . .”

Council Member Betty Dunkerley made a motion in favor of Lochard, noting that she had asked to do a second interview with BAE to see if the outcome would change. However, since staff still preferred Lochard and that preference was based on technical matters, she said she would have to defer to their recommendation. Goodman made a substitute motion in favor of BAE, which Alvarez seconded. But her motion went down 2-5. The vote for Lochard was 5-2, with Goodman and Alvarez dissenting.

After the vote Brodecky expressed his satisfaction, noting that the company has won the vast majority of contracts it has bid on during the past year. As to Austin politics, he said, “It’s all new to us,” noting that the company had never gone through a similar experience in seeking a contract.

Group recommends 75 new officers per year for 4 years

The Public Safety Task Force assembled by Council Member Danny Thomas presented its 22-page report to the City Council on Thursday, giving the city’s homeland security efforts a positive review while offering several suggestions for improving public safety. The group, composed of police, fire and EMS union representatives, held its first meeting in early March.

“We, as a city, have a well-planned, well-executed overall approach,” said Task Force Vice Chair David Evans. “We’ve been on target with community expectations. Austin started early,” on homeland security, Evans said. “Austin approached this idea of homeland security with an idea of seamlessness across the divisions . . . and I observed in each of the meetings the chiefs ease with one another and one another’s plans.”

The task force put the city’s expenses for homeland security at $19,400,000. The group’s priority recommendation is the creation of a contingency plan to increase the number of physicians and hospital capacity to handle large-scale medical emergencies. The report points out that Austin’s ratio of physicians per 10,000 persons is lower than the other major cities in Texas—primarily because Austin does not have a medical school like Houston, Dallas or San Antonio.

The task force’s assessment didn’t stop at homeland security. The group also covered issues relating to overall public safety and public health. Their priority recommendation on public safety calls for the addition of police, fire, and EMS workers, including a suggestion that the city add 75 police officers each year for the next four years. That would allow for creation of new police area commands and lower the ratio of officers to supervisors. In the area of public health, the task force identified emergency room overcrowding and an unstable health care financing base as two potential problems. Their report recommends the creation of an urgent care clinic to relieve the demand on emergency rooms. Council Member Betty Dunkerley has been championing a similar idea for some time. (See In Fact Daily, June 17, and Aug. 2, 2002). In a series of secondary recommendations, the task force urges city leaders to continue work on ways to improve the capacity of the local health system and secure funding. While the report does mention the possibility of a hospital district, it stops short of an outright endorsement of that proposal.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Council subcommittee created . . . Mayor Gus Garcia announced at Thursday’s meeting that he, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Daryl Slusher would make up the subcommittee on the city’s legislative agenda. Garcia said other Council Members would be added later. Part of that agenda will concern creation of some sort of hospital or health care district. Council Member Betty Dunkerley is chairing the health care subcommittee. Susana Almanza and Silvia Herrera from PODER and Gavino Fernandez of El Concilio told the Council they should try to get legislative authority for rent control or creation of a special district to prevent further gentrification of East Austin . . . Appointments . . . The City Council appointed Rhonda Pratt to the Planning Commission, which gives that commission a full roster but leaves a vacancy on the Parks & Recreation Board where Pratt has served for the past two years. Glen Coleman and Chien-Ying Lee were reappointed to the Water & Wastewater Commission. Matt Curtis was reappointed and Adrian Pineda was appointed to the Telecommunications Commission. The Zoning and Platting Commission is still lacking one consensus appointee. If the Council does not make that appointment at next week’s meeting, the matter would remain unsettled until September 19, the date of the next full Council meeting. The Council is scheduled to vote on the budget on September 9, 10 and 12 . . . Of farmers’ markets, industrial land and dogs running free . . . If you missed citizens’ communications at yesterday’s City Council meeting, you missed a chance to hear several pleas, in both English and Spanish, for funds to begin a farmers’ market in the city, complaints about a lack of communication between staff doing code enforcement and more complaints about money being spent to allow their dogs to romp without leashes in the Old West Austin area park

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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