ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers have finally decided who they want to install 400 digital two-way radios in fire, police and ambulance vehicles countywide.
Wells Communications of Plattsburgh will do the work; the County Board of Supervisors accepted a revised price of $94,692 for the job.
The county’s new public-safety radio network goes online next year.
MATCHED LOWER BID
By weighted vote, the tally was 1,814 to hire Wells and 1,042 against. Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) and Supervisors Sharon Boisen (I-Essex), William Ferebee (R-Keene), Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah), Michael Marnell (R-Schroon), Daniel Connell (D-Westport) and Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) voted no, with Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva) abstaining.
Wells had been the high bidder at $120,750, $26,000 more than the low bid from Capital Digitronics for $94,692, but it matched Capital’s price in a letter to supervisors.
Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) said Wells representatives told him they lowered their price because they felt the system would fail without Motorola’s assistance.
Awarding the contract had been delayed a month while supervisors debated whether to hire Capital or Wells.
Motorola told the county it would work only with a Motorola shop like Wells. Capital Digitronics is not a Motorola dealer.
“This thing has taken on a life of its own, but it’s an RFP (request for proposals) process,” County Attorney Daniel Manning III said at a recent county meeting.
“Experience is the major factor that swayed the award to Wells. It appears they have the most qualified people.”
“The award is not based on price.”
“We went to RFP and had two different prices, then we let the high bidder match the low bidder,” Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said. “I’m afraid of what this will do in the future.”
Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said the reason they did an RFP is because the prices can be negotiated.
When the county sold Horace Nye Nursing Home, higher bids from the four initial bidders were solicited. The county accepted $4.05 million from the Centers for Specialty Care of the Bronx, a firm whose first bid was for $4 million.
“This (radio bids) would have gone up considerably if we had gone under state contract,” County Manager Daniel Palmer said.
The price from Motorola under state contract would have been $188 per hour and $35 to program each unit.
Supervisor Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown) asked whether Capital Digitronics wanted to lower its price, and Palmer said he wasn’t contacted by the firm.
Capital Digitronics President Thomas McCabe couldn’t be reached Friday for comment on the award.
Palmer said the Wells installers have advanced Certified Electronics Technician training, while Capital have FCC-licensed installers.
“That (CET) ensures a high threshold of technical competence,” County Purchasing Agent Linda Wolf said. “At Wells, the majority of their employees have senior technician (status).”
INSTALLATION IN SPRING
The work will probably be done in April, Palmer said, because “the system has to be fired up” to do the work, and it is still under construction.
The county purchased the radios for the system using a grant and is preparing to replace an aging 1950s radio system with a $17 million state-of-the-art digital network.
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