$1.7M worth of W.Va. State Police routers useless

CHARLESTON (AP) — Two years ago, West Virginia officials spent $1.7 million in federal stimulus money on 77 pricy, high-speed Internet routers for State Police. Today, only the one in the Logan detachment is fully functional.

An investigation by The Charleston Gazette determined the routers lack the proper components to function, and no one has fixed the problem.

The necessary components could cost about $270,000. But while State Police have repeatedly asked administrators overseeing the stimulus grants for advice on fixing the router problem, the agency failed to submit a proposal as the Office of Technology decides how to spend the remaining $9 million.

West Virginia must spend the entire $126.3 million it got in 2010 by Feb. 13, 2013. Otherwise, it may have to return the unspent money to the federal government.

In August, the Legislative Auditor’s office launched an investigation into the state’s use of stimulus money to expand high-speed Internet service. In all, $24 million was spent on more than 1,000 routers.

But the State Police routers, purchased at $22,600 apiece, lack modules the agency needs for its voicemail system to function, according to emails obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.

Bill Gallagher, information technology director for the State Police, said the hardware didn’t come with the routers. They did, however, come with a five-year service warranty, so the state has already lost two years of free maintenance.

State Police notified the Office of Technology about the problem a year ago.

Diane Holley-Brown, a spokeswoman for that office, said officials are still looking at possible solutions.

“It is premature to associate any potential costs until the final determination is made,” she said.

But an email that Gallagher sent to technology office administrator John Dunlap lists the prices for both hardware and licenses: The voicemail hardware costs about $3,000 apiece, or about $270,000 for 77. The new licenses cost about $100 per phone, or $170,000 for 1,700 phones.

The U.S. Commerce Department Inspector General’s office is also reviewing the state’s use of the grants.

Since 2010, the state has distributed 756 routers bought with stimulus money across West Virginia, but the project team doesn’t track how many devices have been installed and activated at schools, libraries, jails, courthouses and other public facilities.

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