CROWN POINT | Lake County Commissioners voted Wednesday to borrow up to $21 million to build an E-911 countywide network and to give most of it to Motorola Solutions Inc. of Schaumburg.
The Board of Commissioners awarded a $13 million contract to Motorola for its interoperable 700 megahertz P25 Trunked Voice radio system, a digital radio network that would more efficiently link 17 police and fire departments communications. The vote was 2-1.
"We got a good price," E-911 Director Brian Hitchcock said Wednesday after the vote.
But not according to Mike Ryan, local sales manager for Harris Corp., of Lynchburg, Va., one of the two other bidders.
"Harris has been in business 80 years, and we do about 150 proposals a year. When we are 100 percent compliant with the specifications and are $1.6 million lower in price, usually we win. This doesn't make sense to us," Ryan said.
Commissioners Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, and Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, rejected an $11.2 million bid by Harris and a $13.4 million bid by Cassidian Communications, of Richardson, Texas.
Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, voted against awarding any contract Wednesday, saying he needed more time, while Scheub said he felt comfortable making the decision now.
Allen said he chose Motorola on the strength of its long-term equipment maintenance and support services, its experience in the field, the ability of its radios to penetrate buildings and cover nearly the entire county.
Allen said he relied on the recommendations of Mike Mazzitello, the county's technical consultant, and a group of local police and fire officials, known as the technical subcommittee of the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission.
Their report, made public after the vote, states Cassidian was "the lowest qualified" and downrated Harris for requiring the county to buy thousands of portable radios for police and firefighters to use.
County officials are letting city and town officials choose their own portable radio vendors under a compromise to get their approval to join the E-911 network.
The report also stated Mazzitello thought Harris' system would need significant changes "to meet the requirements, which would further result in a significant increase in price to the county, potentially making the 'final' cost of the bid higher than that of Motorola Solutions Inc."
All three commissioners said putting the E-911 contract up for competitive bidding saved taxpayers.
Last year, some municipal public safety officials said bidding would be too time consuming and that Motorola already had received the approval of the state-run Quality Purchase Agreement program, which provided Lake with the lowest possible price.
E-911 Director Brian Hitchcock said the county saved $1.3 million by making Motorola bid for county business, rather than going with the state program.
The remainder of the borrowed money will be spent on construction and other communications purchases. Lake County Attorney John Dull said the county may be able to lower the total amount to be borrowed from the $21 million figure that is now estimated.