WETHERSFIELD - As the Town of Wethersfield makes the final installations on a $3.6 million Harris Communications emergency radio system, it has settled a lawsuit with Motorola, its previous provider.
Motorola has agreed to pay $42,500 to cover the remaining maintenance costs of a radio system that both Wethersfield police and town officials say has been problematic due to faulty and obsolete equipment, as well as spotty coverage.
“I think it’s a good thing to get it off the list of issues we have to resolve,” said Mayor Paul Montinieri. “I don’t know if it’s a huge legal matter. The bigger story is how much the new radio system will cost over the next 10 years, but the long battle with the previous vendor was no benefit to either side. When you move on to a new vendor, you have to mitigate the time you spend on this.”
The Town Council opted to ink the deal with Harris last year. Not included in the $3.6 million cost of the new communications system is a $2.9 million, 15-year maintenance warranty.
“I thought it was expensive and I was critical of whether it was truly a bid process,” Montinieri said of the Council’s selection of Harris. “I still have concerns both in terms of the purchase and the maintenance costs, and I think there will be further discussion on the maintenance. I’ll keep an open mind, but a cautious eye.”
The deal includes the option to terminate the warranty after five years.
Whether or not it was bid properly was a debate that was prompted by the Council choosing to seek prospective new vendors through a Request for Quote (RFQ) instead of a Request for Proposal (RFP). The latter would have been a formal, comparative bid.
When the matter was discussed last year, then-Councilmember Jim McAlister said that an RFP would have publicized the system’s problems and posed security ramifications for the town.
Timing was another issue, said then-deputy mayor John Console at the time. An RFP process can take up to 180 days to run its course, he said.
The town first purchased the current Motorola system in 2003 for between $3.5 million and $4 million. Since then, police officers have described losing radio communications coverage in high-risk scenarios such as chases, Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran told the Council last year.
Some of the equipment that the town got with the system could not be replaced because manufacturers have stopped making it.
The new system, which boasts a multi-brained design as a fail-safe feature, is expected to remain functional in less than ideal weather and includes two high availability switches, transmitters at three sites, new radios for every police and fire vehicle, and new dispatch consoles, amongst other features.
Police and fire personnel will be able to get 96 percent guaranteed portable coverage indoors, and 97 percent outdoors, Harris Area Sales Manager Ann Marie Stafford told councilors at a public meeting held last year.
The radio system can also be connected to a smartphone app, which can be useful if personnel are in an area with spotty coverage.