New County Emergency Radio System To Cost $5M

SNOW HILL – Worcester County will spend close to $5 million to fund a new radio system for emergency services personnel.

The Worcester County Commissioners agreed to spend $4.8 million with Virginia’s Harris Corporation to outfit Worcester County Emergency Services with new radios.

“The current radio system has, much like any other electronic equipment, reached what the company calls ‘end of life,’” said Fred Webster, the county’s director of emergency services.

Webster said he and a committee of local emergency services and law enforcement personnel evaluated proposals from three companies interested in supplying Worcester County with new radios and infrastructure. The proposal recommended to county officials by the committee, that of Harris Corporation, was lower than that of Motorola Solutions, a Columbia company that submitted a price of $5.3 million. Though Delmarva Two-Way Radio gave the county a proposal for $3.8 million, it was strictly for radios and did not include tower site infrastructure, according to Webster.

In addition to being cheaper than the Motorola bid, the Harris Corporation proposal would feature more antenna sites and would allow the county to own rather than lease the core of the system. Harris will also provide the county with an on-site service technician.

Webster said the new radios would be compatible with new Federal Communication Commission (FCC) standards that require various vendors’ radios to operate on each other’s systems.

“The new system will be able to meet that FCC guideline,” Webster said.

Several other counties and municipalities, including Wicomico County and the Town of Ocean City, are also in the process of replacing their radio systems.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic asked if there was an opportunity to work with Ocean City to get a better deal on new radios.

Webster explained there were benefits to having independent systems.

“If a particular event took place and lightning strikes — these things do happen — having two independent  systems is an advantage because they can back each other up,” Webster said.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to accept the committee’s recommendation and move forward with Harris Corporation. Final contract negotiations will now begin.

“Once the contract is signed, the bid required that the vendors be able to have the system installed and functioning within 18 months or by Jan. 1, 2017,” Webster said.