Fayette votes $15 million for new public safety radio system

Above, Viking VP5000 portable public safety radios. Photo/E.F. Johnson Co.
Above, Viking VP5000 portable public safety radios. Photo/E.F. Johnson Co.

The Fayette County Commission on a 3-0 vote on July 12 approved the purchase of a $14.9 million public safety radio system funded by SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) revenues. The system was previously estimated to cost $18.2 million. The bid by E.F. Johnson was $10.6 million less than that of Motorola Solutions at nearly $26 million.

Above, Viking VP5000 portable public safety radios. Photo/E.F. Johnson Co.

It represents one of the largest single expenditures of SPLOST money by the commission. The project starts in August and will be complete within 24 months, according to Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson.

The purchase was approved by a 3-0 vote, with Chairman Eric Maxwell and commissioners Randy Ognio and Steve Brown in favor. Commissioners Chuck Oddo and Charles Rousseau were unable to attend.

The radio system to be used by public safety agencies countywide has long been discussed and was included in the current SPLOST. At the time the upgrade need was initially identified, the cost was estimated at $18.2 million.

Of the two bids received, the bid by E.F. Johnson totaled $14.983 million while the bid by Motorola Solutions totaled $25.619 million, a difference of approximately $10.6 million.

The biggest difference in the E.F. Johnson and Motorola bids dealt with the cost of installation and maintenance over the 15-year life of the system. That cost for Johnson totaled $6.26 million compared to $12.36 million for Motorola, county staff said.

The process to get to a vote on July 12 came after much work and questioning and input by public safety officials from throughout. Rapson complimented those officials on their commitment and diligence in undertaking the task.

At the meeting of June 22, 2017, the Board of Commissioners awarded a contract to a consulting firm Mission Critical Partners, Inc. (MCP) to provide an operational assessment of radio communications requirements, recommendations for upgrading the communications network, procurement support, implementation support and project management services, county staff said.

MCP and county staff worked together to produce the Scope of Work, pricing workbooks, and other details for a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP was designed to contract with a company for a complete turnkey solution addressing all project systems and components, including a trunked microwave simulcast P25 system that will support first responders within Fayette County, P25 dispatch consoles, construction of a microwave network, purchase of P25 subscriber units (mobiles, portables and control stations), and site construction or improvements for towers or tower enhancements, staff said.

As far as whether the public can monitor broadcasts on the new system, E911 Director Buster Brown said newer digital scanners should be able to pick up the transmissions. Older scanners probably won’t work, he said.

An Evaluation Committee was established, with committee members representing Fayette County 911, Peachtree City Police Department, Tyrone Police Department, Fayetteville Fire Department, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Marshal’s Office, and the Fayette County Fire and EMS Department.