County Attorney to review RFP process

Published 11:05 am Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Discussion continues surrounding first responder radio communications in the county following a January meeting of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors.

Previously, the decision to go out with a request for proposal (RFP) regarding a UHF Radio Communications system in the county moved the project ahead.

During the January meeting, the Board of Supervisors entered closed session to discuss “the discussion of the award of a public contract involving the expenditure of public funds including interviews of bidders or offerors and discussion of terms or scope of such contract where discussion is an open session which adversely affects the bargaining position of negotiating strategy of the public body.”

Supervisors Chairman Garland H. Hamlett, Jr. said a procurement was discussed in the meeting following the return to open session.

Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni made a motion to have the County Attorney review the RFP process and recommend a procedure by which an engineer could be engaged.

The motion carried 4-3.

Pierantoni said she is grateful for the work the committee has done this far.

“ And, this is just a step … that needs to be taken at this time …” she said.

According to Charlotte County’s Sheriff Thomas D. Jones previously, a communications committee was formed about a year ago to come up with the RFP and put the project out for bid.

“ … eight companies responded to it …” said Jones.

He said the prospective companies previously came to tour the 911 center and look at the building/towers.

Ultimately, Jones said two companies responded with proposals at that time.

According to 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.

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.

“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 previously. “That is very disturbing to me.”

At that time, 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 previously.

“Somewhere along the line, somebody requested an opinion from the County Attorney I think,” Jones said previously.

At that time, he said that the County Attorney did not say the process needed to be stopped and the project needed to go back out to bid from what he understood.

He said previously the only concern was it might be a problem that only two companies responded out of eight to the RFP and the committee might want to consider rebidding the project.

“I don’t even have a copy of the Attorney’s opinion …” said Jones. “Nobody has told us to stop everything. They just mentioned that kind of casually to the committee that the lawyer had sent his opinion in and we might want to rebid it.”

Jones said there are so many dead zones in the county that officers sometimes do not know if portable radio communications will be available when exiting the vehicle.

“The majority of their work is out of the vehicle …” he said. “It’s a serious situation that’s been put off for many, many years now.”

At the November Supervisors meeting, 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.

At that time, Aspen/ Phenix Supervisor Donna Fore said, “How much longer do we wait before some catastrophe … because the law enforcement and first responders can not call each other and coordinate a response for that victim. That’s what we’re at right now, at least in my district.”

Communications Committee Chair Howard Hobgood said one of the main concerns is no communications in the county.

He said previously the fire service is missing calls because they are not getting them on their pagers.

“When the FCC came in back in 2013 and mandated a narrowing of the bands it really cut communications down,” said Hobgood previously .

Jones said previously for the portable radios, there are dead spots all over the county.

“All we’re trying to do is protect these guys,” he said.