CROWN POINT | It could cost taxpayers up to $19 million to equip Lake County's public safety personnel with state-of-the art communications gear.
Lake County commissioners finally opened the bids of four electronics firms seeking to win a contract to sell county government everything from portable radios police officers and firefights carry, to the heavy metal of communications towers and the consoles where dispatchers will take hundreds of thousands of emergency calls from the public.
The bids are considerably less than an earlier estimate that the county would have to borrow more than $36 million to equip the proposed countywide E-911, which will replace the 17 county and municipal police and fire dispatch centers in coming months.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners will study the price lists as well as a score card of the vendor's technical prowess before deciding the contract winner, as early as their next public meeting Feb. 19.
They must decide among: Cassidian Communications, of Richardson, Texas; EF Johnson of Irving, Texas; Harris Corp., of Lynchburg, Va., and Motorola Solutions, of Schaumburg, Ill.
Cassidian has bid $9 million to sell the county the infrastructure of towers, telecommunications consoles, computers and other gear — but isn't bidding on the portable radios public safety personnel will carry.
E.F. Johnson would provide only portable radios at a cost of $9.7 million. There were no unit prices available, so it was unclear how much each radio would cost.
Harris offered to sell both the infrastructure and portable radios for a combined price of just less than $15 million.
Motorola would only provide communications infrastructure at a cost of $8.4 million.
A committee of local police and fire communications specialists, which studied the technical abilities of Cassidian, Harris and Motorola, has released a tentative rating of the vendor's ability to provide the most powerful and efficient equipment.
They gave Cassidian a score of 50 points, Harris 57 points and Motorola a high score of 76.5 out of possible 100 points.
Jack Allendorf, deputy E-911 director, said the technical committee hasn't yet rated E.F. Johnson, because it isn't providing any infrastructure equipment and the rating on Johnson's portable radios may change based on which other vendor's infrastructure is adopted.
The score represents the bids' compliance with the specifications the county set for an acceptable communications system.
That also includes the competing systems' ability to let public safety officers communicate among one another over the widest areas of the county. Some officers have complained their current gear doesn't penetrate some areas of the county.
Allendorf said the technical committee will now recalculate the scores based on the just-released prices. Commissioners said they wanted the technical committee to do its initial rating before the prices were open, so their judgment wasn't skewed by the various costs of the competing system.