Council committee votes for radio system upgrade

Police radio system needs an updgrade

Public Property Commissioner Joan Schlotterbeck testified during a hearing that the city's maintenance contract with Motorola for the current $62 million, 800-megahertz digital system will expire next June.

She said that Motorola would agree to continue maintaining the old system only if the proposed upgrade - which could take up to two years to complete - is quickly approved by Council.

Darrell Clarke, the chairman of Council's Public Property and Public Works Committee, said that he and four other members yesterday "felt comfortable enough" with the plan to back it. Two other committee members, Frank Rizzo and Donna Reed Miller, did not attend the hearing.

A final vote by the rest of City Council is expected in about two weeks, Clarke said.

Schlotterbeck said the upgraded system, which would be leased by the city for four years, would include 50 digital repeaters to improve radio communications below grade and in high-rise buildings.

Firefighters, cops and city prisons will get 2,700 new radios in the upgrade, which would also reband the current system to avoid cell-phone interference, she said.

The upgrade, which will be paid with money from the state's 911 Fund, has the backing of Police and Fire Department officials, as well as their respective unions.

Councilman Bill Green, who attended the hearing but does not sit on the Public Works Committee, wondered why the city didn't put the upgrade out to bid.

Green said that he was told by committee members that putting out a Request for Proposal (RFP) would take too long, and rebuilding the system from scratch would be too expensive.

"Basically, Motorola is able to put a gun to our head because we didn't manage this process properly," he said.