Sandy Springs officials are scrambling to recalculate what taxpayers will ultimately spend on a new public safety radios system after the city of Johns Creek balked at helping other cities pay for it.
On Jan. 14, Johns Creek City Council voted unanimously against signing an agreement with four other cities – Sandy Springs, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton – to spend $16 million to implement the new radios. Johns Creek questioned the selection of the radio provider, Motorola Solutions, saying the contract should’ve been competitively bid.
City Manager John McDonough said the city opted to use state contract pricing to select the company and said the cities benefit financially from the state’s purchasing power.
“They’ve already done the work, essentially,” McDonough said.
Motorola Solutions spokesman Steve Gorecki said the company didn’t see any problems with the contract.
“Motorola abided by the process established by the cities and believes it was a fair process,” Gorecki said.
If Johns Creek had accepted the agreement, its share of the cost would’ve been $2.8 million. Sandy Springs committed $4 million, a number likely to increase without Johns Creek’s participation. The amount each city was supposed to pay under the proposed agreement was based on a formula that included city population, the number of radio subscribers and the square mileage covered by the new system.
McDonough told Sandy Springs City Council during its Jan. 15 meeting that City Attorney Wendell Willard is recalculating the city’s new share. He said the council would have to amend the agreement or adopt a new one at a special meeting at the end of January.
McDonough said the city already had set aside $2 million in its Fiscal Year 2013 budget for the radios, and start up costs would carry over to 2014. “We don’t anticipate any impact in Fiscal 2013,” McDonough said.
The radios are badly needed Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult said. “We’ve got a failing radio system that’s fragile at best,” he said.
But Johns Creek officials weren’t swayed by pleas to fix the system sooner rather than later.
Johns Creek Councilman Randall Johnson said the other cities didn’t provide a convincing explanation about why the contract wasn’t competitively bid. Johnson, who also works in communications, said the cities agreed to a contract with Motorola on the basis of a recommendation a consultant, Commdex.
Commdex is a reseller for Motorola, Johnson and Johns Creek City Manager John Kachmar said.
Commdex officials did not return a message seeking comment.
Kachmar said the city began questioning the selection of Motorola after receiving complaints from two other companies interested in the work.
“I felt we didn’t do it the right way,” Kachmar said. “This isn’t calling anybody names. We didn’t believe the process was handled correctly so we’re engaging in our own process.”
This isn’t the first time the cities have teamed up to improve public safety response times. Johns Creek and Sandy Springs are both members of the Chattahoochee River 911 Authority known as ChatComm.
“That worked out well, absolutely,” Johnson said of ChatComm. “But that was all competitively bid.”
Johnson said the agreement was too vague and raised too many questions for council members.
“Basically it’s an open-ended contract for Motorola and it was a no-bid contract and we don’t do business that way,” Johnson said.
This is the second time in recent weeks that a contract involving the city of Sandy Springs has come under scrutiny. A company that lost a contract to run the city’s tennis center sued the city in December, alleging the process used to award the contract was flawed.
The Sandy Springs council on Dec. 18 approved an agreement with the other cities to pay for the radios, even though Johns Creek hadn’t yet committed. At the time, Motorola offered the cities an $825,000 discount to sign by the end of the year, according to city records.