Who knew doing the right thing actually pays off? It happened in Lake County this week to the tune of about $1.3 million in taxpayer savings, according to government estimates.
Several months ago, some local law enforcement officials were hot and heavy on a push for Lake County to immediately jump into bed with communications tech firm Motorola for the equipment needs of the state-mandated emergency dispatch consolidation.
A collective howl went up among Motorola advocates when some folks — advocating a more fiscally responsible form of government — called instead for a competitive bidding process. You know, where a government entity asks various firms to compete for the county's business to ensure the best bang for the taxpayers' buck.
Those two factions verbally duked it out, but the logic of a competitive bidding process prevailed in the end. Lake County Commissioners Gerry Scheub, Roosevelt Allen and Mike Repay deserve praise for holding fast to competitive bidding rather than folding to the pressure cooker some local law enforcement and elected officials were trying to put them in for what really amounted to a proposed no-bid contract.
The Motorola advocates played a shell game with their verbiage, arguing they weren't pitching a no-bid contract. They claimed the state had Motorola listed as an already-vetted preferred provider.
But other emergency communications vendors also were on that state list, and you don't get the best price by signing on with the first one who shows up to the dance.
Scheub, Allen and Repay knew this and did the right thing. The competitive bidding process brought three potential vendors to the table, resulting in the approval Wednesday of a $13 million contract for E-911 radio equipment.
No one should be shocked Motorola won the bid in the end. It's a quality company with a proven track record for this type of equipment.
But the county's E-911 Director Brian Hitchcock — the guy they're paying $112,000 per year to make the tough decisions on dispatch consolidation — estimated the bidding process brought the equipment price tag down by $1.3 million.
Some of the folks who wanted to rush into the Motorola deal — sans bid — argued the bidding process would have been too long and arduous. They said it would potentially put the county behind from meeting the state-imposed deadline of a consolidated emergency communications dispatch by Dec. 31, 2014.
The argument never held water. This consolidation of the county's 17 police, fire and ambulance dispatches into one integrated facility was mandated by the Indiana Legislature five years ago. It's not the taxpayers' fault local government is running behind in its response.
The $1.3 million in savings, if that's what it ends up being, might just be a drop in Lake County's more than $100 million annual budget bucket. But we have to celebrate small victories of fiscal responsibility wherever we can, and this is one of them.