CROWN POINT | Lake officials pushing for open, competitive bidding to build the county's consolidated E-911 system may have the winning hand in the debate on whether bargain-hunting or speed should be paramount.
County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said recently there is too much money at stake to pass up an opportunity to get the lowest price on communications consoles for police and fire dispatchers, mobile units to be worn by hundreds of police officers and firefighters, communication towers, computers and software to process the data stream.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich stated in an email to The Times, "I have always pushed for (and will continue) having the technology aspect of this project go out for bid. ... (too) huge not to bid out!"
The county must buy or lease more than $15 million in communication gear before a state-mandated deadline of Dec. 31, 2014, to successfully merge the county's 17 community-based police and fire communications systems into one countywide network.
Some public safety officials say there isn't enough time to go through another formal request-for-proposal process of establishing the technical specifications for the equipment and who is qualified to bid on providing the gear, then advertising nationally for vendors to bid and selecting the best and lowest offer and installing the gear.
County officials aborted an earlier request for proposals after potential vendor complaints that the specifications were too vague.
Instead, public safety officials want the county to hire telecommunications giant Motorola Solutions, of Schaumburg, Ill. Motorola has received the approval of the Quality Purchase Agreement program run by an arm of state government, which conducted its own competitive bidding years ago and designated Motorola on condition Motorola offer discount prices.
County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, said while he, too, favors an open request for proposals and thinks taxpayers would favor that as well, he remains concerned about potential delays. Allen said he's been assured by Brian Hitchcock, the county's new E-911 director, that Motorola will offer a fair and competitive price.
Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, said, "Maybe it's going to be close on the time, but it's worth the risk of being delayed in order to make sure all are satisfied. Every one of these (cities and towns) are going to kick in some money to do this and each one of them has concerns, as well as I do, about making sure we get the best bang for our buck. The bid process may be the only way we can do that. It may end up being a Motorola system, but we want to make sure we get the best system for the price."
Repay said commissioners, who have the final word on the issue, first need to hire a technology consultant to ensure the bid process is properly done. No date has been set for the bidding to begin.