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The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors announced Thursday night that it plans to award a multimillion-dollar contract to Harris Corp. to upgrade its public-safety radio system.
Harris Corp., based in Melbourne, Fla., provides the county's current 800 MHz analog radio system, the primary communication tool for the county's first responders such as sheriff's deputies and firefighters.
Wayne Duff, an area sales manager with Harris Corp., said in an email that he could not comment on the proposed cost of the new radio system. But a previous estimate from a consultant put the price tag at around $20 million.
The county has had issues over the years with the current, outdated radio system--installed in 1999--and Sheriff Roger Harris said at the board's meeting Thursday that fixing those problems was his No. 1 priority.
In June, a detective had difficulty radioing for help after he shot a robbery suspect in the leg during a struggle. That same month, supervisors voted to solicit proposals from companies willing to upgrade or replace the radio system.
After meeting behind closed doors Thursday, supervisors unanimously voted to issue their intent to award a contract to Harris Corp. The only other bidder, Motorola, has 10 days to protest that decision before Spotsylvania begins its negotiations with Harris.
Stafford County reached an agreement with Motorola for a new radio system in 2007 and brought it online a few years later at a cost of $26 million. Fredericksburg attorney Charlie Payne sent a letter to Spotsylvania Supervisor Ann Heidig on behalf of Motorola in June saying the company has been interested in working with Spotsylvania for some time.
Though two supervisors said Harris was the lowest bidder, County Administrator Doug Barnes wouldn't reveal the exact cost of the proposal. He said that will be made public after Spotsylvania officially awards a contract, which is scheduled to happen in January.
Barnes stressed that there were other factors besides cost that made Harris' proposal attractive. A consultant and a committee made up of emergency responders and county officials recommended Harris.
Supervisor Gary Skinner disagreed with the board's decision over the summer to solicit bids for the project. It would've been quicker and less expensive to negotiate a contract with Harris without seeking other offers, he said at the time. However, two separate consultants--one in 2010 and another earlier this year--urged the county to seek competitive bids.
"We let the process work, and I think we came out with a good decision," Skinner said Thursday night.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402