Multimillion-dollar public safety radio project continues to move forward

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Feb. 10, 2018 | 2:10 p.m.

PRINCE GEORGE – One of the county’s largest capital projects continues to progress forward but, according to a recent update from county staff and the county’s consulting partner, implementation is still over a year away.

During their second meeting in January, supervisors received an updated briefing on the status of the county’s ongoing public safety radio project from Prince George Police Chief Keith Early and Altairis Technology Partners’ Wayne Stack, who explained while the county’s request for proposal on the project has gone out as of mid-January, contract execution is tentatively scheduled for the end of the year, and overall implementation of the system roughly 18 months after that date in late December.

According to the county’s FY2016-FY2025 Capital Improvement Plan, the current radio system is reaching the end of its life cycle and repairs for the system are not guaranteed as parts and other vital parts can become harder to find the longer a system has reached obsolescence.

“The County’s equipment will become antiquated with limited usage as the system approaches [the] end of life,” country documents stated. “Replacement parts will also become increasingly difficult if not impossible to find.  In the event of any portion of the system failing, repair will more than likely not be an option.”

In addition to replacing aging equipment, the project aims to increase and expand interoperability of the radio system with other agencies within the county.

In terms of the price tag, documents from the Spring 2017 debt issuance states the collective cost, including “Phase III consulting,” which is known as the implementation phase, will total just over $14 million. In that borrowing, the Prince George Board of Supervisors opted to split the cost of the public safety radio project across 2017 and 2018, with roughly $6.5 million borrowed through debt issuance in 2017 and another $7.4 million expected to be borrowed for the public safety radio project during this year’s annual springtime borrowing.

County Finance Department staff told supervisors at the time that the split was recommended due to “projected affordability of required interest payments in the FY2018 budget, and due to the estimated project timeline spanning at least two fiscal years.”

During his report to supervisors, Stack explained while the county’s RFP was prepared and released on January 18, this type of project is being handled differently in terms of how companies will be able to enter their bids for the project. Citing the sensitive nature of public safety radio systems in terms of county security, Stack said vendors have been given notice that the county is seeking vendors for this project but, there are technical specifications and other sensitive data related to the project that have not been disclosed to those interested in providing their services for this project, adding this was done so the county and Altairis can vet those vendors thoroughly.

In addition, Stack said any interested vendors must sign non-disclosure agreements before they are issued a pre-qualification packet where requirements of the project are provided. Those vendors are then tasked with providing examples of past performance and other information, which is then examined and reviewed by Altairis and the county and, once it is determined the vendor is qualified, they would then be provided the county’s full RFP document, which is an extensive 4,898 line items featuring a total of 12 different appendices.

So far, Stack said they have received roughly five non-disclosure agreements.

Much of the conversation among supervisors and the Altairis representative was spent looking at the project timeline and how close they were to an on-schedule pace and if this roughly $14 million project would provide coverage across the entire county.

Stack’s short presentation walked through where the county and consultant were in this expansive project, noting they were 40 percent through phase two, which includes the design of the radio system, development of the county’s request for proposals, selection of a vendor, and the issuance of a contract. Within that phase, Stack said the county is six percent through the RFP development, vendor selection, and contract phase as they are currently awaiting the pre-qualifications window to close on February 7. Proposals are due to the county by May 17.

Through the summer of 2018, Altairis and the county are expected to review and evaluate the written proposals submitted to the county with the selection of two or more finalists tentatively scheduled for mid-September and negotiations expected to last a month-and-a-half through Thanksgiving.

December should see the selection of the vendor and a contract executed before the end of the year.

An important point Stack made to supervisors was that the timetable he showed them “could be compressed” and things could be completed sooner than presented.

“These dates can be compressed so we don’t expect it to take this long, but it has taken that long in the past,” Stack explained. “So, we looked at this and said what is the longest range in terms of a realistic timetable and that is what is here.”

He added that the timeline presented is roughly a month and two days behind Powhatan, who is going through a similar project in their community and that phase three, commonly referred to the implementation phase, which includes the physical construction, design, testing, and cutover from the old system to the new system, to take roughly 18 months, in a ballpark of mid-year 2020 before the radio system is working and in use by the county.

“That time is heavily dependent on the vendor we select,” Stack said. “We have to keep them on schedule, which is our task.”

In regards to coverage questions posed by Supervisor T.J. Webb, Altairis noted that 100 percent coverage in a community is an impossible feat to achieve but this project will conform to the public safety standard of 95 percent of the county’s geographical area having coverage 95 percent of the time, with coverage requirements making up a large chunk of the nearly 5,000-page technical RFP. Along with geographic coverage outside, the new system accounts for service inside buildings, particularly buildings that members of the county’s public safety team frequent.

“Will it be 100 percent, I expect not,” Stack said. “But, we have the same requirement in Fluvanna County for a project they finished there last summer and when they finished, they were at 99 percent when their specifications only said 95 percent. We are hopeful to exceed our specifications but, dead areas will be identified in our detailed coverage maps. This will be a gamechanger for you in terms of coverage around the county.”

Proposals will be accepted through May 17 with a final contract execution slated for the end of the year.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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