Warren City Council delays vote on radio upgrade

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published December 3, 2018

WARREN — Members of the Warren City Council want a clearer signal about a recommended municipal radio upgrade before they vote on what could be a $650,000 deal.

With the clock ticking on what council members were told would amount to a 53 percent discount on the Motorola radio equipment, the council voted 6-1 at its regular meeting Nov. 27 to delay action on the request until its next session, now set for Dec. 11.

During discussion spread over two meetings — the first was on Nov. 13 — and a Committee of the Whole session, Public Service Director Richard Sabaugh ultimately told council members that the original request of $709,798 could be pared back by eliminating some of the new mobile, vehicle-mounted radio purchases. That would be done by integrating some of the city’s existing vehicle-mounted radios with the new system and assessing which employees of which departments would need portable, hand-held radios.

Sean McCarthy, service manager with Macomb County Technical Services, told council members that the vehicle-mounted portable radios are much more durable than the hand-held models, and thus some of the older radios could still be used, at a savings of $50,000 or more.

He said the pricing in place, which would utilize the collective “weight” of county purchases, will expire Dec. 15.

The original recommended proposal listed a total of 273 portable mobile radios, purchased using Macomb County’s negotiated prices.

“You’re getting the same deal as us,” McCarthy said.

Several council members questioned the expenditure and asked why there was no formal request for proposals process.

Some council members wanted to know more about how the radios would be allocated.

“That puts us in a bind,” Councilman Robert Boccomino said about the timing of and lack of specifics in the administration’s request, and the council’s desire for more information. “It may be a good time. We may be able to work it out and find costs, but you see where we’re at, where our backs are against the wall, and we do like making these decisions for this type of money under the time frame that we’re allowed here.”

Councilman Scott Stevens said there is no doubt that the Motorola products are quality purchases and that the city needs upgraded radios, but he questioned why there wasn’t a formal RFP and why more detailed information about which employees need hand-held portable radios wasn’t provided earlier.

“The biggest rub that I have with this is it was not programmed for in the budget, No. 1. There was no RFP committee that was formed. Now we’re talking about meeting with department heads and figuring out what they need and everything, after we want to commit to $650,000 maximum on this,” Stevens said.

“I feel blindsided. That’s the short of it,” Stevens added.

McCarthy told the council that Warren’s radios for the Police Department and Fire Department were upgraded last year. Before that, it had been 14 years, which is when the rest of the city’s radio system was last upgraded. He said the radios come with a five-year warranty and that there is an expected life span of roughly 10 years.

Councilwoman Kelly Colegio said she favors the purchase of the new equipment, even if the cost is a little greater, to keep all employees on the same system as a point of emergency preparedness in the event of a disaster, when all city departments might be called to work together.

“It really is all hands on deck,” Colegio said. “I do support this. I understand the fact that when it comes down to brass tacks, sometimes you just pay a little bit more, but in the end, it could save the residents of the city a lot of the cost and comfort, and even lives at some point.

“If something ever did happen, I’d hate to have to go back to this day and think we didn’t vote on it, and there’s some glitch in the system and it could cost somebody everything,” Colegio said.

The Warren City Council will next meet in regular session at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 in the auditorium of the Warren Community Center at 5460 Arden Ave.