Council members find a new bone of contention, arguing over the merits of the city's high-tech Air Quality System (AQSYS). It's apparently far too sophisticated and expensive for what should be a simple job.
By JOHN CORMORAN
Scientists working on the AQSYS project have entered into heated debate with the City Council regarding the future of the sensor network, and whether it has evolved too far beyond its originally intended purpose. Harrison Jones, the project's current team leader, says that the election year pressure on the City Council has led to proposed budget cuts that would "seriously damage the science this program does to help every single Perplexian."
Council Member Nathan Earlywine, who is spearheading the effort to cut the AQSYS budget, called the allegation "preposterous" in interviews. "The fact is, the sensors on these craft have become ridiculously bloated over the past few decades, " he said. "We have better and cheaper ways to monitor much of the data that comes out of AQSYS now, so we need to stop throwing away all of this money. It's simple fiscal responsibility."
Earlywine's proposal would significantly reduce the array of instruments included onboard the AQSYS aircraft over a period of years. As the lightweight craft age out of use, Earlywine's plan would see them replaced with the scaled-back versions. This would save the city a projected PCL37 million per year.
Gladmason, though, calls the cost "drops in the council's bucket," and says the cutbacks are mere political posturing at the expense of science. "I can tell you, for every single sensor we include in the AQSYS array, there's someone relying on it to do real, meaningful science," he said. "There is not one data stream coming off of our flyers that we could drop without impacting some other project."
The AQSYS, or Air Quality System, was first launched in 198 as a small network of simple aerostats designed to collect atmospheric data. Today, though, the program comprises a network of thousands of lightweight airborne instrumentation packages that help monitor not only weather and air quality, but also traffic, groundwater patterns, fire risk, and more.