Cleveland starts Radio RFP all over, again.

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Jul 9, 2001
Lorain Cnty, OH
Cleveland throws out bids for new radio system and will start over

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The city has thrown out two proposals to build a new radio system after more than a year of tinkering, evaluating and other delays and will now start over.

frank jackson.jpgView full sizePD file photoCleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.Cleveland had formally requested bids to build a new radio system for the police, fire, water and other departments in February 2009. The project, which would include a transmission system and handheld radios that are compatible with other cities' emergency radios, is expected to cost at least $30 million.

Two companies submitted proposals last spring but Mayor Frank Jackson rejected both last week.

Ken Silliman, Jackson's chief of staff, said both the city and the bids need to be more clear about the number and type of handsets in the purchase.

"Our RFP (Request For Proposals) needed to be more specific and less open-ended on the radio part," he said.

Radios for park maintenance workers differ from those needed for police, which differ from those needed for fire trucks. All cost varying amounts, some twice as much as others.

The city's original request for proposals came right after a string of failures of the existing radio system that left police using personal cell phones instead of radios to contact their stations.

Steve Loomis, president of Cleveland's police union, said the system still has smaller failures, but it needs to be replaced quickly. He called it unsafe and criticized the delay.

"They just tacked on another year," he said. "I just don't get it. This is something that we need. We don't have to be playing around with the red tape and the politics. Let's get it done."

Silliman said city staff will draft a new request and start seeking proposals in about 60 days. Loomis scoffed at that timetable.

"Nothing happens in 60 days in the city of Cleveland," he said.

Cleveland bought its existing system from Motorola in the mid-1990s, but Motorola no longer makes parts for it and repairs are made only from replacement parts scavenged from systems scrapped by other cities. Radios that work on the system cannot be replaced since new radios will not work with it.

Motorola and Harris Communications, formerly known as M/A-COM and Tyco Electronics, were the only two companies to bid on the new system.

Motorola has not disclosed details of its bid and the city had repeatedly declined to provide either proposal. Silliman again denied that request Thursday, saying the city law department would have to review it.

Harris released its proposal in the fall. Anticipating that Cleveland could not afford a new system for all departments at once, Harris proposed upgrading the safety forces now for $17 million and upgrading other departments later.

City officials say they had not decided between the two proposals, but Harris has long suspected Motorola would win the bid. Loomis said Thursday he talked with a Motorola representative who was convinced his company would be selected.

"The Motorola guy was dumbfounded," Loomis said. "He said they were at the finishing stages and all they had to do was sign the contract."

Harris spokesman John Hawn said he believes it can only help the city to study the issue more carefully as it seeks the best option and price. He said without more detail on the exact number and kind of radios the city wants, it was hard to give the city its best prices.

Motorola spokesman Steve Gorecki did not address the bid rejections in an e-mail statement to The Plain Dealer, saying only that Motorola hopes to continue providing communications products for the city.
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