City officials OK patrol radios

By Jessie Kern

The DeKalb City Council unanimously approved the proposal for the police department and fire department to purchase $171,000 in public safety radios.

The City Council held a Special City Council Meeting Wednesday to discuss the purchase of these public safety radios from a vendor, E.F. Johnson, a company that specializes in electronic and entertainment products with a focus on communications within public safety, which offered the city a discounted price.

Finance Director Molly Talkington said city officials were presented with the opportunity to purchase radios at a extensively discounted price but only if the city agreed to purchase the radios by March 31.

City Attorney Dean Frieders said the city had hesitation with approving the purchase of these public safety radios from E.F. Johnson during a March 30 Special Meeting because of the Open Meeting Act, which resulted in Wednesday’s meeting.

“Good Friday being the Friday before Easter is recognized as a state holiday for purposes of the act, even though it is not observed by all units of government,” Frieders said. “Accordingly, it is clear that it was an error to schedule a special meeting on that date. Regrettably, this error was not realized until at the start of the meeting a comment was made regarding the gathering on Good Friday.”

Frieders said not moving forward with an action item was the right choice for the council because of this issue with holding a special meeting on a state holiday. Frieders also said the council should treat this action item as though it has never come before the council.

E.F Johnson extended the March 31 deadline to Wednesday.

Jason Leverton, DeKalb Police Department commander, said the city received multiple bids for the public safety radios, but E.F. Johnson became the selected bidder because they offered radio infrastructure specifications, as well as specifications for the provision of portable and mobile radios and was the lowest bid.

“You’re probably aware of the county radio project that has been approved and is underway, which is a $4 million project for the county to establish a digital radio network throughout the county,” Leverton said. “What the county did is hire a consultant, Pyramid Consulting from Indiana, to assist them in their endeavor to release a [Request For Proposal] for competitive bids.”

Leverton said Motorola has been the county’s vendor in previous years, pricing a similar, non-dual band radio at $5,000 a piece without the inclusion of additional accessories.

A dual band radio allows the radio to function on separate frequency bands, but city officials didn’t say how that would impact their radio communications.

Leverton said the original price given for the patrol radios for the radio project were expected to cost $4,250 per unit. He said E.F. Johnson has already manufactured 500 dual band radios for a large order that unexpectedly cancelled, so they planned to sell them at a discounted price to the county for $1,000 a piece, having already been the selected bidder.

“We do feel as though the discount is very significant, hence the quest to hold this meeting because we are on the timeline in order to get this order to them,” Leverton said.

Leverton said the radio in discussion is the most current model the vendor has.

Jeff McMaster, DeKalb Fire Department deputy fire chief, along with the other individuals who spoke at the special meeting on Friday, presented the same information they had previously.

McMaster said the DeKalb Fire Department is requesting 70 radios.

“Now the fire department has been working on a VHF system for almost 30 years, and this will actually be our first leap into the digital world, We realize that there is a significant up cost from going from a VHF system to a digital system,” McMaster said.

McMaster said the department requested a grant of $25,000 through the State Marshal’s Office, as well as through the Assistance to Firefighters grant program for about $1.5 million. McMaster also said the Assistance to Firefighters grant would only supply 56 radios, and the city would have to match 10 percent from the grant.

“If we are to make this purchase at a later time on the fire department side, it would cost an additional $125,000,” McMaster said.