A verbal battle erupts from the Winchester Star on the board assembly over the general public security radio system
WINCHESTER – Members of the Frederick County Board of Supervisors argued Wednesday night over whether to sign a contract with Texas-based EF Johnson to replace the county public safety radio system – a move that is expected to cost around $ 21 million becomes.
At the board meeting on Wednesday evening, Opequon supervisor Bob Wells suggested putting a vote on the execution of a contract with EF Johnson and Pennsylvania’s Mission Critical Partners to procure a radio system for public safety and related services. Though the matter was put on the agenda, Gainesboro supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy, Red Bud district supervisor Blaine Dunn, and Back Creek supervisor Shawn Graber were upset that they were being asked to vote on potentially an expensive project with no time to have to check what they were voting on.
In October 2018, Mission Critical Partners conducted an assessment of the county’s public safety radio system, which revealed numerous issues. On the one hand, the available system capacity is limited, since no frequencies are transmitted nationwide and there are a limited number of operating channels if the primary transmission channels are overloaded.
Four potential providers responded to a district inquiry for proposals for a new system.
In November, Mission Critical Partners recommended that the board select EF Johnson, but regulators postponed the decision to further consider EF Johnson’s proposal. At the request of McCarthy, Dunn and Graber, regulators further postponed the vote in December to review issues brought to their attention in a closed session and to negotiate further with two possible vendors – EF Johnson and Motorola.
A closed session was scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the county administration building at 107 N. Kent St. to discuss the new radio system.
Closed meetings are government meetings that are closed to the public. As per the Board of Directors’ agenda package, the scheduled closed session on Wednesday was to consult with the legal advisor and to brief employees on possible legal disputes involving EF Johnson Company and one or more other persons relating to a contract for and a radio public safety system. The closed session should also consult a lawyer about the contract for the radio public safety system. The meeting should be closed because “such consultation or information in an open meeting would adversely affect the negotiating or litigation position of the public body”.
McCarthy told The Star that every supervisor showed up and when the closed session request was made, Wells, Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr., Stonewall Regulatory Authority Judith McCann-Slaughter and Shawnee Supervisor David Stegmaier did not vote for it to enter the closed session. McCarthy, Dunn and Graber stated at the board meeting on Wednesday evening that some of the regulators may have been held off the closed session for fear of litigation from EF Johnson.
“EF Johnson had sent a letter to the county,” said Dunn. “The letter basically said that the [Frederick County] The communications committee gave us a recommendation, and we, the board of directors, should simply sign and approve that recommendation. Otherwise, they would face legal action. “
McCarthy and Graber said because the closed session was canceled, they believed the voters they represented were excluded and their votes silenced.
“In my three and a half years on the board, I have not once voted against a member of our board of directors discussing their concerns,” said McCarthy. “I’ve never intentionally missed a meeting. Even after I made up my mind about a few things, I still came and sat and listened to what you all had to say. And i am disappointed. It seems to me that this country has come to a point where people choose they don’t care what anyone has to say. You don’t want to hear the other side. “
Graber said he didn’t like being “bullied and intimidated into signing a contract”.
“It’s wrong and if this were in my personal home I would tell you to leave the property and never come back,” Graber said. “Today we’re talking about giving this very company a contract. It confuses me. “
McCarthy said the policy of the board of directors is that if something is to be put on that agenda it should be submitted a week in advance so that board members can look into the matter before they come to the meeting – less than 10-15 minutes to think about it. He said the proposed contract with EF Johnson would cost $ 21 million initially to install the radio system and about $ 9 million more to keep it serviced. It is inappropriate to put a $ 30 million project on the agenda at the last minute. Dunn said it was “fundamentally wrong” to be asked to vote on the matter without notice.
Dunn said he would like the board to also consider a third party, L3Harris. He said if more vendors were considered, the contract would be more competitive and the county would likely spend $ 15 million to $ 16 million instead of $ 21 million. He also had questions about site selection, cost savings and the efficiency of the proposed radio system.
Graber said the liaison officer representing Mission Critical Partners on the board often did not answer direct questions and that he often received information that was incomplete, inconsistent, or inaccurate. Graber also had concerns that the radio system was not being tested locally and could be prone to hacks and security breaches.
McCann-Slaughter and Bob Wells said Wednesday that they believe in EF Johnson for having attended meetings of the county communications committee, which is made up of public safety officers who regularly look at the radio system, for the past two years Mission Critical Partners to select a contractor for the new radio system. They felt like EF Johnson had been reviewed and their questions answered.
McCarthy and Graber said they wanted to attend the communications committee meetings but were told by DeHaven not to leave. McCarthy said, “DeHaven said we’ll let the committee handle this and you can ask questions when they come back with a report.” He said if they had been allowed to attend the communications committee, their questions might have been answered. He said the canceled closed session was an opportunity to allay concerns and accused DeHaven, McCann-Slaughter, Wells and Stegmaier of backing down on a threatening letter from EF Johnson.
“We were on the right track to have a discussion,” said McCarthy. “At least that was the order of the day. Now that a threat has suddenly emerged, we’re going to say, “Oh, you’re going to sue us? Welcome on board, you are our new partner in this area. ‘”
DeHaven said he was unaware that Wells and McCann-Slaughter attended the communications committee meetings. Wells said he and McCann-Slaughter were invited to attend because they were part of the public safety committee meeting. Graber said he regretted adhering to DeHaven and not fighting to attend committee meetings.
“I’ll never do that again,” said Graber. “I apologize to the residents of Back Creek. I gave the chairman of that body the benefit of the doubt, and I shouldn’t have. “
McCann-Slaughter said the board needed to approve a new radio system as soon as possible and said, “I just don’t know how long we will put off this and put the safety of our public safety staff at risk on a daily basis.”
She also said the communications committee worked hard for two years.
“I just don’t know how much more we’re asking of someone,” said McCann-Slaughter. “They did the job we asked them to do. They spent several months and time getting us to a point of recommendation to ensure us 95% insurance. We have law enforcement officers and rescue workers out of cover. And we’re pushing this can forward. “
Dunn said he understood McCann-Slaughter’s concerns and said that if the board agreed to meet again to discuss the matter, they could potentially get a deal on a new radio system within two months.