Press-Republican

December 3, 2013

Essex County still stalled on radios

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers remained deadlocked Monday over who to hire to install 400 mobile radios for the new public-safety communications system.

Since the County Board of Supervisors heard last week from one bidder, Wells Communications of Plattsburgh, they decided to table the contract award until the other bidder, Capital Digitronics of Albany, had a chance to make a presentation.

WARRANTY QUESTION

At issue is whether the three-year warranty on the digital two-way radios manufactured by Motorola Solutions will be honored if a non-Motorola dealer puts them in fire trucks, ambulances and police cars throughout the county.

Capital is a Harris dealer, while Wells is a Motorola-authorized shop.

But after Capital Digitronics President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas McCabe addressed the Board of Supervisors at Monday’s regular meeting, some supervisors said it raised even more questions and they wanted to hear from Motorola Solutions directly.

A service representative for Motorola had previously told the county in writing that Motorola would not honor the warranty on the radios if a non-Motorola shop did the work or even work with Capital during installations if problems arose.

‘SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS’

Wells Communications submitted the high bid at $120,750, which is $26,000 more than the low bid from Capital Digitronics for $94,692.

“This is the first time I can remember having to defend a low bid,” McCabe said at the podium. “We will undertake the installation of the Motorola radios at significant cost savings to the county.”

He said his firm has installed New York State Police and State Department of Transportation vehicle radios, along with New York State Electric and Gas radios.

THEIR OWN WARRANTY

He said their lead installer is Motorola trained.

“We will warranty our installation work for one year, backed by a performance bond. We can buy genuine Motorola parts and have access to their technical systems center, just like everyone else.

“Motorola has said they will not warranty installation by us. No one would expect them to. We will warranty our own work.”

CERTIFICATION

It’s not the installation warranty that’s important, Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) said, but the service and repair warranty on the radios.

McCabe said his technicians are FCC licensed but do not have the CET (certified electronics technician) accreditation that Motorola supports.

“If Motorola would rather have a CET, I guess that’s what I’d look at,” Morrow said. “That’s what I worry about — $26,000 on a $17 million system.”

The county’s new radio network is estimated to cost $17 million and will replace an aging 1950s structure with a state-of-the-art digital network.

County Manager Daniel Palmer said the request for proposals included programming the radios, which McCabe said they could do as long as they were provided with a channel-plan template for their software.

“But in order to program them, you’re going to have to work with Motorola,” Palmer said. “That’s part of the problem.”

HIGHER SCORE

Wells scored higher on the proposal rating, Palmer said, based on its technicians having CET training.

“It is not political (the recommendation for Wells),” he said. “It is part of the RFP process. We did a fair and accurate job. I stand by the recommendation we did.”

Palmer and County Purchasing Agent Linda Wolf both recommended Wells be given the contract.

MOTOROLA INPUT

Palmer read aloud an August email from Capital Digitronics stating they could not work with Motorola and were hesitant to respond to the RFP.

“That was an early email,” McCabe explained, and they later decided to submit a proposal.

“The only reason I read this email was because of the concern whether they could work with Motorola; they (Capital) have that concern themselves,” Palmer said.

Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) said he wanted to hear from Motorola on its warranty intentions if Capital got the contract.

“Motorola does not have to work with Capital,” Morrow said. “Anybody can buy parts. It doesn’t mean I’m going to install them. This radio system is not like the State Police because of the (mountainous) terrain of Essex County.”

McCabe said he didn’t anticipate having any issues working with Motorola.

“The question is, will Motorola work with them?”

Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish told the board. “The letter says you have to be a Motorola service shop.

“I don’t want want to see Motorola point the finger at Capital Dig, and Capital Dig point the finger at Motorola (if there are problems). That is my concern.”

ATTORNEY’S ADVICE

County Attorney Daniel Manning III said that getting the lowest cost is not the determining factor of the RFP process.

Qualifications are a certain amount of points, Manning said, and the board should rely on its counsel from Palmer, Jaquish and Wolf.

“You need a clear, concise response from Motorola,” Manning said. “You should hear from Linda. I think you need more information.”

He said they could continue the tabled resolution, contact Motorola and address it later, and supervisors decided to follow that advice.

Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said that once Motorola responds, he will call a special Board of Supervisors meeting to vote on the contract award.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com