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Commissioners approve $1.1 million on radio system maintenance

A request from Carroll County's public safety department prompted a discussion Thursday about the amount of money the county spends on radio services.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved $1.1 million for a year of service maintenance and upkeep to the radio system, as well as almost $78,000 on the purchase of 17 reserve radios for the county to use as needed. The radios are used by fire and law enforcement officials, as well as county staff.

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Commissioner Dennis Frazier was not present.

The county approved a $14.4 million move from an analog radio system in 2013 and the new system went into operation in 2015. It has been credited with enhancing signal strength and enhancing safety by including superior encryption as well as a vehicle monitoring system.

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In April, board members expressed concern over the increased cost of operating the system.

Under a contract with Motorola that covers maintenance and upkeep of the system, beginning July 1 the county will pay $92,991 each month, well more than double the $35,164 monthly fee the county has been paying under warranty for the new system.

The cost includes about $926,000 annually for base service and about $189,000 annually for continuous software upgrades.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said he negotiated some additional protections into the contract for the county, including a mandate that Motorola must give the county one year's advance notice if it plans to no longer support certain features in the county's system and a seven-year guarantee of service.

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Scott Campbell, from the county's Department of Public Safety, said the life expectancy of the system is about 30 years.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, questioned the logic of paying for technology upgrades without knowing what the upgrades might include.

"$189,000 is a hell of a lot of money for features that we don't know what they're going to be," Howard said.

Rothschild agreed that the price is high but argued that it does have benefits. The contract, he said, essentially guarantees that that county's system will have complete integration and full functionality throughout its life span.

Rothschild was the lone "no" vote on another request by Campbell on Thursday that the county approve the purchase of 17 reserve radios.

The units, Campbell said, would be kept by the county in the event another county radio stops functioning and requires repair. They would not, he said, serve to replace existing radios.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, argued that having a significant cache of backup radios is good practice for public safety.

Rothschild said he didn't believe the county needed additional units beyond the extras the county already has.

The contract renewal approved by the commissioners on Thursday covers the county's system through June 30, 2017.

410-857-3315

Twitter.com/heatherleighnor

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