Essex County Board of Supervisors
The decision on who will install new mobile radios in the county’s emergency vehicles was temporarily put on hold Nov. 25 so both businesses looking for the contract could speak to the board.
Members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors heard from Wells Communications President Edward Kehn after Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow offered an amendment to a resolution authorizing the installation of the radios, awarding the contract to Wells.
“This is a very sophisticated, multinet system and the radio is very important to the entire system,” Kehn said. “If the radios are not in tune properly, then you would have problem. All of my technicians have the highest certification that you can get. I have 10 years invested into the success of this system. I have a lot of money, man hours and sweat equity invested into waiting for this day and I would say that there is no other company in this state this is more prepared to work on your system then us.”
A second company, Capital Digitronics which has an office in Keene, was not at the Ways and Means Committee meeting.
“The other company asked if they should be here tonight and I told them that they probably did not have to because I did not believe that we were going to be awarding the contract tonight,” Ways and Means chairman and Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee said. “I believe we need to let Capital Digitronics come forward at the full board (meeting Dec. 2) and address any of these issues.”
The Capital Digitronics bid received by the county’s Request for Proposals (RFP) was lower than the Wells Communications bid, but at issue was whether the contract company needed to be a Motorola (the company that produced the radios) licensed dealership.
“The installer has to be a Motorola shop or it will void the warrantee,” Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said. “We have somebody that can work with the parent company to fine tune the radios once they are installed. They are a lot more complex than the simple radios that we are using now. The really critical part is the configuration of the radios. We are still working on the template for that. So no matter who is going to install these, they are going to have to work with Motorola to make sure that the installation template is correct.”
County attorney Dan Manning said the county did not have to go with the lowest RFP bidder.
“The whole purpose of an RFP is to give you flexibility in purchasing so you do not have to go with the lowest bidder if there are other considerations that sway you to go with another provider,” Manning said. “They had a higher level of training so (purchasing officer) Linda Wolf felt they were the better option.”
Palmer said the county had also worked previously on this and other projects with Wells.
“Linda designed a point system like she did for every RFP,” Palmer said. “What she really looks at is training, experience and experience with the county. Honestly, experience with the county means a lot with an RFP because you have a track record with the company. She came up with an objective point system that said we should go with Wells Communications.”
Palmer said there could also be problems if two companies were working on separate aspects of the project.
“If you have two people, one working on the radio and the other working on the install, if there is something wrong you are going to have the radio people say it is in the install and the install people saying that it is in the radio,” Palmer said. “This is a step in the process of a $17 million project. We wanted to find the most qualified people we could to install those radios into the trucks. That is a key part of the process because if you have a bad install then you have a bad system.”
Morrow said the county should make sure it gets the best work possible to avoid future issues.
“We are going to look foolish if we save 29,000 and we have no radio communications in all of Essex County because it goes down,” Morrow said. “We looked good saving those few dollars when we decided to leave some stuff off of the public safety building, but now we look foolish not putting the ‘penthouses’ on the top protect the heating and air and it is costing us a lot of money.”
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said the county should also look at future needs of the system.
“If we are going to go with another company and Motorola will not give any technical support then I think we know where we have to go,” Scozzafava said.
Westport Supervisor Dan Connell asked to table the vote until the Dec. 2 meeting when they could meet with Capital Digitronics. The table passed, with Canon and Morrow opposing.
Capital Digitronics President and CEO Tom McCabe said he was surprised to be fighting for his company’s bid during the Dec. 2 regular meeting of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.
“This is the first time I can recall ever having to defend a low bid proposal,” McCabe said. “We look forward to working with you on this. We looked at everything that was put out on the bid sheet and priced all that out. The price is the price.”
McCabe also addressed the concerns that it would be cheaper in the long run if the county went with Wells Communications over Capital.
“It will be cheaper in the long run for the county if you are working with someone who is right here in the county and can quickly respond to any needs that come up,” McCabe said.
Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston spoke up for the low bid.
“The reason we went out for RFP was to get the best possible price for the county,” Preston said. “If Wells was $26,000 lower then I would be making the case for them. I see no reason why we would not award this to the low bidder. They seem to be very capable at this and the eyes that are going to be on this, if they fail at this it is not going to play out favorable for them.”
“We went through an RFP process and they submitted the low proposal,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “Forget the fact that they are in Essex County, what will this do with our credibility with RFPs in the future. This company submitted the best proposal and the lowest proposal and they should be awarded the project. This has become more political than anything else.”
County Manager Dan Palmer said he was still in favor of the determination made through the purchasing department to recommend awarding the contract to Wells.
“I stand by the determination that Linda did out of the purchasing office,” Palmer said. “It came out 95-93 and the recommendation was to go with a Wells. I think that we did a fair and accurate job with this an I will continue to stand by it. There is more that goes into this than just price.”
County Attorney Dan Manning said he felt the board should give more weight to the opinion offered by the purchasing office.
“It is hard for you to be here and make all of these decisions without all of the information so sometimes you have to rely on your people,” Manning said. “You have to rely on Dan (Palmer), you have to rely on Don (Jaquish) and most importantly in this case you have to rely on Linda. I have never seen Linda skirt an issue so I think you would want to talk to her about why she scored this and recommended that the contract be awarded to Wells.”
“I talked with our fire commissioners and they said that they would like to see us stay with Wells,” Willsboro Supervisor Ed Hatch said.
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said the county should talk with Motorola as well.
“I do not like the way that this is playing out, quite frankly,” Politi said. “We have spent millions of dollars with Motorola and if this company is so serious about not working with one of these companies, then I want to hear from them. They have some egg on their face if they are going to take sides in this.”
“You need to get all of the facts from Motorola,” Manning said. “You need to know if this will affect any of the warrantees or your relationship with the company.”
Jay Supervisor and Board Chairman Randy Douglas agreed.
“We are not just going to go with a phone call,” Douglas said. “We are going to send a letter with specific questions to clarify and then I will call a special board meeting later this month if I have to so we can move forward.”