Extended warranty increases E-911 costs

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Lake County commissioners bought the extended warranty package Wednesday on the county's new E-911 radio hardware.

The 15-year deal will cost $18.1 million $6.5 million more than the amount made public last month when commissioners first chose Motorola as the best, but not cheapest bidder, from among three potential vendors.

E-911 Director Brian Hitchcock said most of the difference is a result of the county buying seven more years of Motorola maintenance services than originally planned. The agreement is scheduled to run until 2030.

The costs include:

$8.4 million for Motorola's interoperable 700 megahertz P25 Trunked Voice two Way Radio system, a state-of-the-art digital radio network designed to more efficiently link 17 separate county and municipal police and fire departments communications.

$862,000 for additional radios, sirens and other equipment not mentioned in last month's price summary.

$8.8 million for the 15-year maintenance agreement that averages $469,000 each year for equipment maintenance as reported last month and $119,560 annually for software maintenance not in last month's summary.

"The price is extremely competitive," Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock said Motorola was willing to cut its usual costs to win one of the state's largest E-911 consolidation efforts in Motorola's backyard. Hitchcock said E-911 consolidations of this size have run well more than $20 million in other communities.

Commissioners said their insistence on demanding competitive bidding for radio equipment, despite time pressures, saved taxpayers $1.3 million over buying Motorola equipment through a state-run process that some police chiefs insisted would be the cheapest alternative.

Lake County Attorney John Dull said the county employed Federal Engineering, of Fairfax, Va., as a communications consultant, at a cost of less than $3,000, to help negotiate the best deal on maintenance costs.

Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, who voted for the contract Wednesday, said Federal Engineering warned the county maintenance costs could easily exceed the original equipment's price.

Dull said the deal the county agreed on freezes maintenance costs despite whether Motorola's equipment and service costs increase over the years.

Hitchcock said having the contract signed is a big step in making consolidation a reality after more than five years of official indecision in the face of the state's mandate to launch E-911 by next year.

The county still must spend more to build, furnish and equip the primary call center to be located in Crown Point and a back-up center in East Chicago, construct two new communications towers and rent five others around the county, and buy about $3 million in personal radio receivers to be used by county police officers and ambulance and fire services working for township trustees.

Commissioners again said they will borrow up to $21 million for the capital expenses. Dull said the county will pay for the maintenance costs from operational revenues it will receive from property taxes and telephone user fees.

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