COVINGTON — A $19,553,970 contract with Motorola for a new E-911 radio system has been approved by the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

The new P25 system has the stamp of approval from the E-911 Board of Governors, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, Newton County Emergency Management, and from at least two of the three cities — Covington and Porterdale — that pay the county for 911 dispatch services.

“It’s a big project. We’ve had a system that did not work well for everybody … not for the entire county,” County Manager Lloyd Kerr told the Citizen last week. “This system will give us 98 percent coverage for portable radios and 97% coverage in the lesser covered areas. There is no system that can give you absolute 100% coverage, so 97% is the standard by which everything is measured. So we’re getting the best you can hope to achieve.”

Several users of the E-911 radio system encouraged commissioners at a special called meeting June 18 to approve the expenditure. Sheriff Brown said it has been frustrating to him that dispatchers could not communicate with deputies by radio in certain parts of the county, but could communicate by cell phone in those areas.

“That has bothered me for years and years,” he said. “And I think it’s time now that the rubber is meeting the road and we put a system in place that I can feel secure, as well as all the chiefs and all the rest can feel secure, as well as the residents can feel secure that there is a system that works throughout the county.”

Newton County began planning for the new radio system more than three years ago when the project was included in the 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum. That referendum earmarked $3.66 million for upgrades to the system, but it soon became apparent that the project would cost much more than that.

In January 2019, commissioners entered into a consulting contract with Tusa Consulting of Covington, La., to develop a request for proposals for the project and to evaluate those proposals.

According to County Manager Kerr, an E-911 review committee outlined the following goals for the new system to meet:

♦ Countywide coverage and capacity

♦ Critical building coverage

♦ Interoperability

♦ 15-year support plan

♦ Experienced project team

♦ High availability network

♦ Local service support

♦ Seamless P25 transition

The RFP was issued in December 2019, and Motorola was selected for the work. Pricing negotiations began on June 8 and ended on June 11.

According to the county, Motorola was selected over other bidders based, in part, on its guarantee of improved coverage. Motorola guarantees 98% or greater coverage by portable radio outdoors in the county; 97% or greater coverage by portable radio in reinforced concrete buildings built to a 6 decibel standard; 97% or greater coverage in the cities of Mansfield and Newborn, and in other areas where coverage is currently unreliable and in buildings constructed to a 10 decibel standard; and 97% or greater in the cities of Covington, Porterdale, Oxford and by portable radio in buildings constructed to a 20 decibel standard.

In addition, the new P25 system will be compatible with systems currently used in Walton, Rockdale and Henry counties.

Funding for the project will come from a variety of sources, as follows:

♦ $3,666,158 from 2017 SPLOST collections

♦ $7,876,798 from 2017 SPLOST collections that exceeded projections

♦ $2,442,594 from 2017 sales tax collections over budgeted projections

$874,421 from participating cities♦

♦ ♦ $4,993,999 total from annual general fund budgets over 15 years.

The project is expected to be completed by February 2022. The project cost includes consulting fees for Tusa to continue to oversee installation and implementation of the new system.

In speaking in support of the project, Board of Governors member and Porterdale Police Chief Jason Cripps told commissioners, “This system now will bring us into the future; it’s reliable. … This system is what we need.”

Commissioners approved the project unanimously.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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