Friday, February 26, 2010

DaneCom Details

I get a headache even thinking about the DaneCom proposal. For some background go here.

Sunny Schubert relates a conversation she had with County Board Super Robin Schmidt about funding for DaneCom wherein Robin argues that requiring the county to pay 100% of the operating and maintenance costs (O/M) would actually cost Monona taxpayers more because we would be subsidizing Madison's usage.

Well, maybe so, maybe not. Using a $1.6M/year O/M cost, each household in Dane County would pay $9.22 if the County paid 100% of the cost. If the costs were assigned based on user fees, and using the information available to her at the time, Robin calculated a cost per Monona household of $6.50. That assumed $2.91 per radio and 65 radios and about 2900 households. However, the city actually has 100 radios, which increases the cost to about $10.03/household.

More importantly, if the county does not pay 100% of the O/M costs, they will not get 100% participation and probably not close to 100%. A reduction in participation will increase the costs for the remaining participants because the O/M costs will be the same - $1.6M/year. The cost per radio/household would increase, possibly dramatically. Thus, the user fee introduces costs volatility for municipalities. Moreover, less than full participation undercuts the whole point of having an interoperable system.

The argument is also made that if the cities, village, and towns do not pay for part of the cost, then they will have no incentive to hold down radio use. That sounds like a plausible argument but ignores the way the radios are actually used. First of all, the radios are quite expensive, so we are not going to buy anymore than we really need. Second, the 'end user', i.e. the officer on patrol, uses the radio because he or she needs to use the radio. They won't use the radio more because it is 'free'. Beside, it is already 'free' to them, i.e. they don't pay to use it directly.


By the way, according to the US Census Quickfacts, Dane County has 173,484 households and Monona had 3768 households in the 2000 census. Using 3768 households  would drop my $10.03 figure above to $7.73.


  1. Doug - using the census numbers still makes it a better deal for Monona - and the governance of the system remains with the locals instead of with the county. We'll have to see whether enough municipalities sign up and the system goes forward or we go to plan b. It's a tough issue and costly, but the end result of interoperability is still a worthy goal!

  2. I suppose I should make it clear that while Robin and I disagree a little bit on this issue, Robin's opposition to 100% county funding is based on her belief that the 100% county funding will actually cost Monona taxpayers more money.

    I think she *may* be right, but the numbers are hard to pin down. And I'm convinced that unless the county funds 100%, the DaneCom plan will not be implemented and we move on to the Plan B. Whatever that is. Monona is actually in reasonably good shape if that happens.

    Robin, do you think anyone else is reading this?

  3. I read it and think the county should pay.

    Wouldn't the cost take up a big chunk of of the budget each year? So less money for parks/roads/anything because of the levy limits?