By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
City, county, GS and BOE study options for 2-way radio upgrade
Could cost $3.6 million; options to be examined
W radio

With one existing system approaching the end of its contract, a new two-way radio system for use by police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, school bus drivers, road crews and other public servants in Bulloch County could cost, by one projection, $3.6 million.

But the city of Statesboro, the county government, the Board of Education and Georgia Southern University will first pay $15,000 each, a total of $60,000, for Omnicom Consulting Group of Tallahassee, Florida, to advise them on the issue.

“Given the price tag on this, we thought that it would be advantageous to look for a consultant to tell us whether it’s a good deal, is it not, are there other options,” said Darren Prather, central services director for the city of Statesboro.

More than 1,500 radios, mostly handheld, are currently assigned to agencies in Bulloch County, including those of Brooklet, Portal and Register, Ogeechee Technical College and East Georgia State College, as well as the four largest user entities.

The $3.6 million was an initial estimate for Motorola to replace the system, he said.


Two systems

In fact, public safety agencies in Bulloch County are linked to two different systems, said County 911 Director Kelly Barnard. The main 800 megahertz system installed in 1999 is on a contract with a Motorola service provider. That contract is slated to expire Dec. 31.

“Our 800 system is at end-of-life,” Barnard said. “They gave us a contract at this point through December of this year, but if we don’t move in one direction or the other, they’re not going to continue offering it.”

The company would continue to fix the system and could extend the contract while a new one is installed, but eventually, parts may not be available, she said.

Meanwhile, Bulloch County is also part of a multicounty system called SEGARRN, the Southeast Georgia Regional Radio Network. The county received a $1.2 million federal public safety grant to join the system in 2007. SEGARRN uses P25 digital radio technology on both some 800 Mhz and some 700 Mhz frequencies. Certain radios the local agencies have purchased in the past few years can be used on this system, Barnard said.

Started in Savannah, SEGARRN includes Bulloch, Bryan, Effingham, Chatham, Liberty and Glynn as participating counties.

“Our recommendation before we went forward with the proposal with the city, the county, the Board of Education and GSU to hire the consultant would have been to continue on with the SEGARRN expansion, but now it’s going to be up to what’s brought back to the group,” Barnard said.

A committee of staff members from those four governmental entities looked for firms capable of doing the study. A “request for qualifications” sent to six firms drew responses from four, Prather said. These included descriptions of the firms and their services, but not prices, he said.

The committee ranked the firms, choosing Omnicom as best suited. The city then negotiated with the firm and received the $60,000 quote, Prather said.

One condition was that the firms submitting qualifications not be affiliated with any equipment vendor or manufacturer.

“That was one of the requirements, that they not be connected in any way to any vendor or company, outside of just a consultant,” Prather told Statesboro City Council on April 18.

County officials first brought the need to update the radios to the city’s attention, Mayor Jan Moore said. The study is meant to find “the most efficient and cost-effective way,” she said.


Fewer radios?

A count of radios was done as part of the preparations. In all, the various agencies had 1,580 radios, but only 600 of those are expected to be usable after the upgrade. Some agencies expected to reduce the number of radios they have on hand so that only 1,051 would be needed countywide, according to the local assessment Barnard provided.

After Prather’s presentation last month, City Council voted to contract with Omnicom for the study, but on the condition that the other three entities share equally in the cost.

The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners, as part of “consent agenda” items grouped for a single vote, approved the cost-sharing agreement Tuesday. Spokespersons for the school system and university confirmed that they have agreed to participate in funding the study.

Prather said the city hopes to receive commitment letters from all the agencies this week. The study would proceed right away and should be finished in three to four months, he said.


Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter