What happened to the RFP?

Published 2:57 pm Sunday, November 17, 2019

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In this week’s edition, we covered a special called meeting held on Nov. 7 between the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS), Radio Communications of Virginia (RCV) the provider of the system and the fire, emergency medical services (EMS), and sheriff’s department in which fire and EMS personnel were hoping for more answers to a multitude of looming questions.

Questions such as the number of talk channels requested verses the number received, advanced encryption coverage, and even what will happen if the supervisors break a contract.

They did receive input and answers to some of their questions, but the meeting brought up more issues and a heated exchange developed between some of those in the audience and some members of the board.

It was just a few months ago that the board of supervisors approved a new multi million-dollar radio communication system for the county that was said to enhance coverage and communication for fire, police, EMS and the school system.

Right after the BOS approval, these groups seemed to be happy with the board’s choice in radios and the system they would be given only to later find out that the new system was not what they have asked for.

This week’s edition addresses the fact that Walt Baily, president of the Charlotte County Firefighters Association, says that the original request for proposal (RFP) for the county’s new radios called for 12 talk path channels, but that once that RFP was delivered and approved — the county is now only getting four channels.

A page from RCV’s bid proposal states that they have “designed and proposed a system that meets and exceeds the RFP specifications.”

Another issue arose during Thursday’s meeting when Sheriff Thomas Jones confronted the county’s consultant for the radio system that supervisors looked to for suggestions.

Jones was upset when he addressed the consultant because he says they never stepped foot in the 911 center before making a recommendation.

How can you make a recommendation to a county if you have never been inside that center? Now, the consultant says he was “not allowed” to go into the 911 center. So, who’s telling the truth here?

I do commend Sheriff Jones for addressing that point. I would think it would be hard to recommend a system to a county if you are not fully aware of what they are doing daily.

When it comes to the firefighter’s association, I also commend them for standing up and saying that the current system is not what they asked for or what they want.

Coverage is very much needed, but so is communications on the fire grounds, and when EMS and police are working incidences.

If the system is not right for the end-users, what good is it?

Now, I do think the P25 system will work for the county, but maybe not in the way the fire and EMS need it to work. There again, I am not an end-user, so I cannot wholeheartedly say it will or will not work.

The point being here is that it appears that the RFP asks for one thing, yet delivered another. Why was this not noticed beforehand?

The point was even addressed during the meeting of breaking the contract between RCV, the awardee of the contract.

This could cost the county lots of money, although the exact repercussions of that have not been disclosed. But how good is spending millions of dollars on a system that the end-user says will not work? And what about that RFP that asks for one thing but delivers something else?

Maybe it is time to go back to the drawing board on this one.

Crystal Vandegrift is a staff reporter for The Charlotte Gazette and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Crystal.Vandegrift@ TheCharlotteGazette. com.