You have been reading about Lake County’s trials and tribulations to consolidate 18 separate emergency dispatch operations. State law requires that all 92 counties have consolidated dispatch centers in operation by Dec. 31, 2014.
The idea of consolidating dispatch operations has been discussed for more than 15 years. Initially, different record keeping systems, the lack of radio frequency bandwidth and other technological hindrances made it difficult to move forward.
In reality, the biggest obstacles were turf battles and parochial fiefdoms. Technology has taken care of most of the former issues. Time, unfortunately, has not eliminated the latter.
When an entity looks at consolidation, the basic litmus test is that none of the partners should be worse off than they were before. Costs may increase, but if service levels also increase, and you are better off, that should be acceptable.
Lake County’s effort has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for consultants and we still are not close to getting on the air. The E-911 Commission, made up of local police and fire officials, have made numerous recommendations, most of which have been rejected or ignored by the Lake County Commissioners.
The Commission has spent hours debating and researching issues and probable costs. They are the boots on the ground and want to get this thing moving.
Two major recommendations of the Commission that have been rejected are the distinction of open bidding vs. using the State Quantity Purchase Agreements (QPA) for the acquisition of radio and computer equipment, and the “Dark Site” vs. two redundant sites for emergency back-up. A third issue is the cost to each community.
I will address the QPA issue this month, and next month I will present ideas about rational cost sharing.
The state has a comprehensive purchasing program for hundreds of items. Communities that use the QPA program are not required to formally bid the items again. They may also use the QPA price to comparison shop.
The QPA is great for large purchases like police squad cars.
In the mid-1980’s, 13 NWI communities joined to purchase de-icing salt. This was initiated by Munster and others because the state did not have a QPA contract that locals could use. A few years ago, the state opened up its contract to local units and now, virtually everyone utilizes that program.
The Town of Munster purchased an aerial ladder truck and fire pumper from QPA bids made available to all local units. The successful bidder was able to book more units and Munster saved big dollars. It was a win for everyone.
Radio equipment has been priced under the QPA as well as the Federal Government Service Administration (GSA) pricing programs for years. The recommendation by the chiefs to utilize the QPA was sound and legal. Almost all local departments utilize Motorola equipment. It is considered the gold standard for reliability and performance.
The argument that using the QPA is not the same as competitively bidding is simply not valid. I urge the Commissioners to reconsider their position and move forward with the QPA already in place.
Time is of the essence.