New Kent supervisors negotiating with Harris Corporation for emergency communications system
After negotiations to join a regional radio grid fell by the wayside in New Kent, supervisors elected to find another provider to bring emergency communications to the county. Not only did New Kent staff find another provider, they found one at nearly a $1.5 million cheaper rate.
New Kent supervisors voted unanimously during their March 25 work session to negotiate a contract with Harris Corporation to install a $5.5 million emergency communications system. As part of approval to enter the contract, supervisors also voted to hire a federal engineer to help with the process. The decision comes after an offer costing close to $7 million by Motorola to join the Gloucester-James City-York regional radio grid was pulled last month by the company.
District 1 representative Thomas Evelyn recalled endless hours spent in an effort to provide top notch equipment and communications for emergency workers and school personnel through the proposed system.
“It has been a long process,” Evelyn said. “I received a call from Motorola vice president Jackie Watson and was asked to hold off today’s vote. I told her that I would relay the message to the board, but I let her know how frustrated I was personally.”
County attorney Michelle Gowdy also received a call from Watson and relayed the message to supervisors. Gowdy commented that supervisors “weren’t thrilled” by the way things were handled by the company.
After conducting regular business at the work session, supervisors entered into a closed session to discuss the project. They reemerged a half-hour later, signaling for county financial consultant Ted Cole to appear at the table.
Cole’s recommendation for funding the project began with a buy-in of $800,000. A suggestion for borrowing $4.38 million to support the project was also made, with the county making payments of $550,000 a year for the next 10 years. To help with those payments, Cole recommended using the one cent in the real estate tax rate in FY2015-16 originally set aside for renovating the Historic School. He also urged the county to impose a one penny increase on the tax rate in both FY2017-18 and FY2019-20 to level off costs. Cole mentioned that with incoming revenue from new businesses in New Kent, one of those pennies may not be necessary.
County administrator Rodney Hathaway commented about the change of direction to bring a new radio system to the county.
“Staff has been doing research on the issue ever since we felt negotiations with Motorola weren’t making any progress,” commented the county administrator. “We began to call around and spoke with the Harris Corporation and we believe they will bring us the needs to have a well-working emergency communication system in the county.”
Supervisors still must agree to terms of the contract before any construction work can begin on the project. That construction could start as soon as August upon the execution of the agreement.
In other matters occurring at the work session, supervisors:
–Received an update on the conditions of the school system’s tennis courts from New Kent superintendent of schools David Myers. Myers commented that three places are under consideration for relocating the courts. Preliminary cost for the courts total $250,000 excluding site work. Evelyn commented that he could not support spending an excessive amount on the project if it required excessive spending for moving the courts, providing lights and additional parking, and extensive site work.
–Announced proposed projects for VDOT’s FY2016-21 Secondary Road Six-Year Plan. Projects on the list include Dispatch Road improvements (sight distance, road alignment), Henpeck Road improvements (reconstruction and surface treatment), and Stage Road (rural rustic road project). Hathaway expects to receive $88,111 in VDOT funding to assist with those projects. A May public hearing is expected on the plan.
–Discussed the possibility of broadcasting county meetings through Internet streaming. Hathaway said meetings have failed to broadcast over the last three months on the county’s cable channel on Cox television. He suggested looking into Novus Solutions to provide streaming services due to more county residents having access to the Internet compared to the roughly 40 percent of residents subscribing to Cox Cable. Supervisors asked the county administrator to research costs. The proposal made by Novus Solutions has a $12,500 startup expense with an annual cost of $16,945.