LOUISBURG -- Franklin County commissioners agreed to host a public hearing and work session next week, giving themselves and residents more time to communicate before selecting a new emergency radio system.
On Monday night, Tusa Consulting Services' representatives presented commissioners and the public with proposals from two companies interested in outfitting the county with a new emergency radio system.
Florida-based Williams Communications and Georgia-based Motorola Solutions were the only two companies that responded to the county's request for proposal to implement an enhanced emergency communications system -- a 700/800 MHz digital simulcast trunked radio network capable of meeting current and future needs.
Tusa Consulting Services Chief Executive Officer Dean Hart said the company is recommending the county go with Williams Communications as they provided the most technically compliant response and they were the lowest bidder -- at $21.9 million.
Motorola Solutions proposed doing the project for $32.6 million.
"[Williams Communications] had the most advantageous proposal, they were the most technically compliant in a lot of areas and they had the lowest cost," Hart said.
But, Hart said Tusa's review of both proposals was done independent of cost.
"All of the technical comparisons were done before I ever looked at the price," Hart said in response to a query from County Commission Chair Michael Schriver.
Both companies presented proposals for an 800 Mhz P25 Phase 2 system.
For the most part, both companies were close in a number of technical areas.
The key differences, though was in the building timeline and coverage guarantees.
Motorola Solutions expected to take more than 23 months to finish the project, but could take longer if site acquisition was delayed.
Williams Communications pledged to do the project in 18 months.
Williams also pledged to provide better coverage in buildings and areas that are typically tougher to penetrate with radio signals.
"That's a big deal," Hart said.
Williams also pledged that its system, with fewer tower sites, would rely less on the kinds of equipment that would need to be placed inside of government and commercial buildings around the county to boost coverage, there.
Motorola Solutions would need an additional $3.1 million to equal that, according to the presentation.
"The objective of RFP," Nick Tusa said, "was to design a system that had a minimum number of [those pieces of equipment inside buildings] because most of the coverage is provided by the tower sites."
Tusa relied upon a committee of emergency responders, including fire and rescue and law enforcement, plus county management and finance staff to craft the request for proposals to meet the county's needs.
At the end of the presentation, Schriver recognized the experience and expertise of that group, noting that he was confident their input would generate responses that would address the county's needs.
Still, Schriver suggested the board hold a work session, complete with public input, to completely hash the matter out.
"It gives us time to not only absorb the information, but to possibly have a q & a ... with staff and consultants.
"It would also give the community a chance to communicate with us, directly, in one-on-one environments [even prior to the meeting]," Schriver said.
Schriver also noted a concern brought forth by resident Scott Strickland, who felt that residents have not had enough time to understand what this radio system means to offer valuable public input.
"... This would give us another seven days," Schriver said, noting that commissioners are open to input prior to the meeting and during the meeting, as well.
"... If [people] have concerns ... I would want to hear that," he said. "Call us.
"Don't wait until that day," he said. "If you've got a concern, let's talk about it. let's explore it now: Don't wait until the 11th hour.
"This is very important," he said. "The lives of those that will surrender their lives for us is what we're talking about, so let's give that it's due."
The work session is slated for Monday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Room of the Franklin County Administration Building on Market Street in Louisburg.