Fayette County 911 is continuing its push for innovation with a new public safety radio system. At Thursday night’s meeting, the County Board of Commissioners approved the contract for a new system by E.F. Johnson Company, based on the recommendation of an evaluation committee of personnel from Fayette County 911, Peachtree City Police Department, Tyrone Police Department, Fayetteville Fire Department, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Marshal’s Office, and Fayette County Fire/EMS.
The system, which serves Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Tyrone, the Board of Education, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Marshal’s Office, and Fayette County Fire and Emergency Medical Services, will be paid for with 2017 SPLOST funds, which had allocated $18.2 million for the total Public Safety Radio System, with the contract with E.F. Johnson Company not to exceed a 15-year total of $14,983,180.42.
It will be a turnkey system, with all components required to meet P25 standards, a grouping of standards set from joint efforts of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International and other groups.
Representatives from 11 companies attended a pre-proposal conference, but only two companies submitted a proposal, E.F. Johnson and Motorola. Motorola is the provider of the current system which dates back to 2002, but their proposal for the new operation came in nearly $11 million higher at $25,619,311.17.
Clay Whitehead, with Motorola, expressed frustration that they weren’t given the opportunity to present their case in person before the evaluation committee, but County Administrator Steve Rapson said that, because the numbers were so far apart, they felt it was an unnecessary step.
The commissioners agreed.
“It’s just really hard to overlook almost $11 million in difference on these bids,” said Commissioner Steve Brown, noting that it was a gamble moving away from an established partner like Motorola, but that it was a risk the county was willing to take. “For you E.F. Johnson folks, our top level emergency, law enforcement, and fire professionals have put themselves on the line and said that you’re the one we need to go with, and I’m hoping you’re not going to let them down.
“I hope you’ll make us very proud and we’ll all look back on this and say ‘Gosh, we made a great decision and saved our citizens a lot of money in the process.’”
Chairman Eric Maxwell said that while it is typical to pick a low bidder, that is not always the case. He referenced the Board of Education not selecting the low bidder when outfitting the high schools with turf fields and how the AJC and local tv stations picked up on the story.
“I don’t know what the headline would be if we did a $25 million acceptance over a $14 million acceptance,” he said, joking that he would be run out of office again. “It’s just a large number. It’s hard to swallow that number.”