The Observer asked city of Charlotte officials a series of questions about a no-bid contract that will pay Motorola up to $32 million over the next seven to nine years. Among the questions and answers:
Q. What work and equipment will that contract pay for? What will it allow public safety officials in Charlotte to do? How is it designed to improve public safety in Charlotte?
A. The City of Charlotte’s Public Safety Radio Network is a full service, customer owned and maintained wireless infrastructure that supports all public safety and emergency services within Mecklenburg County and surrounding counties. First responders that rely on the network include the Charlotte Fire Department, MEDIC, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department, and surrounding jurisdiction emergency response organizations.
Currently, over 50 agencies are operational on the network, including Cabarrus and Union County Public Safety Organizations and the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Gastonia, Belmont and Mount Holly. Additionally, various Federal, State and local public safety agencies in the region access the system through talk groups.
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Motorola has worked with the City since 1996 to develop a reliable radio network and has seen the system through several technological upgrades to better support public safety officials and handle the increases in service area over the years. The company was previously contracted to cover the maintenance of the system on a yearly basis and was awarded a seven year contract with up to two additional one year renewals. The current contract also covers a number of potential upgrades to the network over the next seven years including replacing outdated equipment and increasing capacity.
By awarding a seven year contract, as opposed to renewing on a yearly basis, public safety officials are able to plan out the next seven years of technology improvements to the network. There is also a cost avoidance of about $2,000,000 over the life of the contract. These savings will be realized not only in Mecklenburg County, but in Union County, Cabarrus County and the City of Gastonia.
Q. How did that contract come about? What led city officials to recommend that to council?
A. The City’s Public Safety Communications team is tasked with creating a strategic plan for the radio network. As the current service provider for network maintenance, Motorola was engaged by the team during the planning phase. Motorola presented a Migration Assurance Plan (MAP), a customized multi-year plan designed to sustain and promote network availability and security, support ongoing growth and expansion due to increased demands on the network, provide for network migration to alternative technologies, and assist with compliance with future grant provisions that may be used to fund improvements.
They also provided additional discounts to the City over the life of the plan. The program offers savings of approximately 9% off of existing maintenance rates, as well as 9% off “list” price for the infrastructure projects and all future projects under the contract.
Q. Was this a brand new contract or essentially a renewal or adaptation of an older one?
A. The City had a previous contract with Motorola for network maintenance which was negotiated yearly, making it difficult for the agencies/counties on the network to plan their budgets. The City charges back the cost of the network to City departments and the other Counties on the radio network. By awarding a seven year contract agencies/counties can plan their budgets for a longer period of time.
Q. Did the city issue an RFP (request for proposals) on that? Did the city issue an RFI (request for information)?
A. There was no solicitation conducted. The City’s decision to continue work with Motorola was based on several factors:
• Transitioning to a new system would be highly expensive for the City and all regional partners that use and rely on the existing network.
• The City’s first responders are familiar with and have high confidence in Motorola radios and have been satisfied with the current service provided by the company.
• Most components of the Public Safety Radio Network are currently provided by Motorola, making the company the most qualified to support the maintenance work performed daily by the City’s Public Safety Communications Team.
• Motorola’s willingness to provide the City with the flexibility to amend the terms as needed over the course of the contract with no penalty.
Q. What was the process that led to awarding that contract?
A. See Question 2.
Following extensive research, planning and negotiations by City professional staff, a Request for Council Action (RCA) was submitted to City Council on October 28, 2013.
Q. Who were the main people and city departments involved in that process? Who would know most about it?
A. Public Safety Communications, a service area of Technology Management, led this process working in coordination with Shared Services/Procurement Management and the City’s Attorney Office.