County Board approves $5.5M for new radios

By John Guevara 

After six weeks of multiple committee meetings, lengthy debate and an impromptu caucus, the Winnebago County Board approved a contract with Motorola for radios and the use of the Starcom21 system.

The county will spend $5.5 million for the 405 radios, including equipment and maintenance. Republicans were strangely silent for much of the debate.

Angie Goral, D-13, asked why the county didn’t go out for bid on the cost of the radios, while Minority Leader Joe Hoffman, D-10, queried as to why the county’s Director of Purchasing, Roman Gray, wasn’t involved in the negotiations.

Gray said he deferred to the county’s contracted IT Director Gus Gettner because of the technical aspects of the contract. Gettner said he had discussions with government bodies that had purchased radios from companies other than Motorola at a discount only to pay more for maintenance and software upgrades over time.

Dan Fellars, D-19, voiced strong opinions against being forced to vote Thursday night.

The county board newcome lamented a “concrete understanding of exactly what we need and exactly how it’s going to be used,” asking, “Why are we being held to a deadline?”

Motorola offered the county interest rate incentives to make the purchase in 2016.

Steve Schultz, R-3, questioned the administration’s choosing to wait until the final two months of the year. But Gettner replied that the county had begun discussions with Motorola in January of 2016.

Fellars raised concerns about implementation and utilization of the radios. “If we can’t answer a strategic question in how we’re going to implement [a] $5.5 million [purchase], we’re not doing due diligence.”

Hoffman called for a caucus, after which Democrats suggested that a utilization report be made to the board on a regular basis. Republican Chairman Frank Haney deferred a vote on the issue while committing his administration to deliver such a report.

The county will reportedly receive 30 months of free airtime on the system.

Earlier in the evening the County Board approved the appointment of Carla Paschal as the new CFO and Amanda Hamaker as County Administrator.

Republican Ted Biondo sang Paschal’s praises and also said he was impressed with Ms. Hamaker’s “long list of qualifications and ideas” and urged unanimous approval of the two appointments. No board member asked any questions or offered clarification about the qualifications of either position.

The appointment process for the open posts began in the second week of December. Majority Leader David Boomer, R-4, had no comment as to why there was less discussion about due diligence when voting on the people responsible for the $200 million annual budget than there was on the $5.5 million radio purchase.

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