CROWN POINT | Like many this Christmas, Lake officials want the latest electronics, in this case $36.2 million in public safety communications hardware for its new consolidated E-911 services.
But questions were raised Wednesday about whether the county is shopping for the best price or just reaching for the most expensive thing on the market, as nine communications vendors gathered at the Lake County Government Center.
Lake County Commissioners announced last summer they would submit what would be one of the largest contracts in county history to competitive bidding, as early as next month and drew up their wish list, known in government terms as a Request for Proposals, or RFP.
The vendors' representatives came to question the RFP's clarity and whether the county is ensuring fair competition among them.
Some privately said the RFP may be worded so that only Motorola Solutions, of Schaumburg, has the state-of-the-art communications gear to win the contract.
John Bushemi, attorney for Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who was present at the vendors meeting, said, "Sheriff Buncich does not support an RFP that restricts competition to just one vendor, because that will drive costs for Lake County cities and towns up millions of dollars."
Michael J. Mazzitello Sr., a Wisconsin-based consultant who helped draw up the RFP, said those fears are overblown.
He said he investigated these concerns earlier and found that Motorola, Harris Corp., Cassidian Communications and Tait Communications should be able to meet the industry standard, known as Phase 2 P25.
P25 is a federally endorsed standard for digital hand-held or mobile radios that does away with rival manufacturers' equipment not communicating with each other.
Mazzitello said the county also will give vendors the freedom to split up the contract so they can either bid on providing the communications infrastructure for the central dispatching of public safety communications, bid on providing only the mobile radios, or both.
Sources said many more vendors can provide the mobile radios, generating more competitive pressure on the price the county would pay.
Members of the technical committee of the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission, a group of police and fire chiefs and county officials, fielded other questions from vendors and said they would provide answers by next week.