Radio communications discussed

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019

First responder radio communications in Charlotte County continue to be of discussion following the decision to go out with a request for proposal (RFP) regarding a UHF Radio Communications System.

Aspen/Phenix Supervisor Donna Fore said she believed the county had been trying to get improved radios for about six years, at a December meeting of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors.

She said it had been a debated problem.

“I understand in my district alone there was an incident where someone could’ve been severely affected … there’s a pocket in my district where there’s no communications available. It’s really difficult for anybody to communicate with law enforcement and with the rescue squad,” said Fore.

According to a County Administrator Daniel Witt at a December meeting of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors, staff and legal counsel suggested the project go back out to bid, however, the communications committee rejected the suggestion.

Previously, Witt reported eight companies showed interest in the RFP and attended a pre-bid meeting, however, two proposals were submitted for consideration at that time.

Interviews were conducted Sept. 25 and a list of follow-up questions were sent after the interviews.

At the December Supervisors meeting, Witt said the committee requested the staff go back to the two bidders and provide a list of questions. At that time, the questions had been sent and a response was due Dec. 17.

“This is very disturbing to me that a committee that was appointed has rejected staff’s recommendation and legal counsel’s recommendation,” said Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni. “That is very disturbing to me.”

She said radio communications in the county was going to be a huge expense.

“When we talk about we can’t do this and we can’t do that, and I’m not saying that radios aren’t needed, but this committee was not elected. This committee was appointed by someone and to reject staff’s and legal counsel’s is serious …” said Pierantoni.

At that time, she said the Supervisors needed to take some action.

Witt said at that time, the concern of the Communications Committee was for safety.

He said when an officer gets out of the car, there are several locations in the county where communications are no longer available.

Witt also said the committee was concerned about the time frame to go back out to bid would take too long and they would like to move forward with the current two proposals and see what could be worked out.

“That’s the direction we’re headed right now at the request of the committee,” Witt said in December.

Fore said if the project continues to get pushed away, she dreads something severe will happen.

“All that’s well and good, the reason we’re doing this is for public safety, but if we have on record a legal opinion that tells us we’re doing it wrong, we can’t do it. We just can’t do it …” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Gary Walker.

Walker said the Supervisors would wait for the committee report, however, it is the responsibility of the Supervisors to ensure it is done the right way and legally.

Pierantoni said it wasn’t that she did not care about law enforcement, but the committee could not think they could come back with a recommendation disregarding legal advice.

“Not with my vote,” said Pierantoni.

Saxe/Bacon District Supervisor Royal Freeman said the issues not only affect law enforcement, but it affects rescue squad workers and the fire department as well.

Fore said, “How much longer do we wait before some catastrophe … because the law enforcement and first responders cannot call each other and coordinate a response for that victim. That’s what we’re at right now, at least in my district. That’s what will happen. Someone will not get proper care in a timely manner because the first responders cannot talk to each other and coordinate a response to that victim.”

Walker suggested waiting for the Communications Committee report.