OC Council Approves $5.5M Radio System Lease

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials agreed to accept a lease purchase offer for a new radio system for its emergency personnel after securing a favorable interest rate for the life of the roughly $5.5 million loan.

With the town’s current 23-year-old system reaching the end of its useful life, the Mayor and Council in May approved the lease of a new state-of-the-art radio system for emergency services and other public safety departments. Ocean City Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald came before the Mayor and Council last week seeking permission to ink a contract with Eastern Communications to replace the aging EDACS 800Mhz analog radio system with a new state-of-the-art digital Harris P25 Open Sky system. The current radio system, utilized by the police, fire and emergency services departments, along with other departments within the resort, has been in place for over two decades and will soon no longer be serviced.

On Monday, Finance Administrator Martha Bennett explained Bank of America-Merrill Lynch had come in with the low bid for the town’s long-term lease with Eastern Communications for the new radio system. Bank of America’s proposed interest rate for the loan came in at about 1.6 percent for the $5.5 million lease-purchase, which will run for 10 years before expiring in 2016.

“We had nine bidders in range of interest rates from this 1.58 to 2.29,” said Bennett. “We were very pleased with the results and I recommend accepting this low bid.”

The council voted unanimously to take advantage of the low interest rate. Because of time constraints and deadlines, the ordinance approving the radio lease-purchase was passed as emergency legislation.

While the current system continues to work flawlessly, Ocean City was faced with several options including sticking with the current system and gobbling up as many replacement radios and parts as it could or begin exploring a new digital alternative to replace the decades-old system. Theobald and Electronic Services Manager Bob Dimaio have spent the last three years researching the alternatives and reviewing the options.

In December, Theobald sought and received permission from the council to begin negotiating a contract for the digital P25 radio system. In May, he presented the results of those negotiations and despite the high price tag, the news was actually favorable. Theobald said going in the project could cost as much as $9.5 million.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.