LETTERS: Rockdale needs to do more homework before buying new communications system

The county published an RFP for the 800 MHz Public Safety Communications System. This project is to replace all the equipment at the tower sites and the microwave system that connects the sites to the 911 center. This is not an upgrade as it states in the RFP; it is a wholesale replacement of the infrastructure.

There are some problematic issues that will impact the citizens of Rockdale County in a number of ways. Foremost, the RFP does not mandate in-building coverage. This instructs the vendors to engineer the radio coverage to a sheriff's deputy in a car or on the street. The unintended consequences will be lack of reliable coverage in schools, hospitals, government buildings and jails. Without good coverage in these critical buildings, our public safety personnel will not be able to call for assistance when they need it the most. In order to achieve in-building coverage it will require more tower sites that will cost far more than the $4.5 million budget set aside by the SPLOST committee.

There is questionable guidance given to the vendors. For example, why does the RFP require interoperability with Cobb County yet does not require it to be interoperable with Henry or Rockdale County? Mutual aid is a commonplace occurrence with our neighbors yet a very rare occasion with Cobb County.

The RFP leans heavily in favor of the incumbent vendor. The scoring system that has been created gives the incumbent vendor a 40 percent lead as the capricious requirements can only be met by the incumbent vendor. For example, it gives high scores for being able to be interoperable with Cobb County and other jurisdictions where the incumbent vendor has as customers.

One would also need to know why the incumbent vendor is mentioned in the RFP. Why does the RFP in one paragraph ask for 24 months of warranty and maintenance and in another paragraph ask for 12 months?

Why respond to the vendor's questions on the 10th of the month when the responses are due on the 13th? Rockdale has had the questions for some time now. The issue here is the non-incumbent vendors do not have the inside track and their questions need to be answered so they can perform the engineering needed to design the system. So they get their answer on the 10th end of business day; the vendor now has one day to design the system, one day to publish the document and one day to deliver the document. Most corporations need more time to create a body of work that Rockdale County deserves and should expect.

Now comes the question: what will you do to ensure your family will get the best 911 system for the money you are going to spend?

I ask that our local Board of Education members and all teachers begin to look closely to what product you will get if we continue this purchase as it is now headed. We all remember past events at our schools; do you want an inferior system at an inflated cost that may not perform at the most critical times needed?

The radio system will be addressed during the next meeting of the Fire/911 subcommittee on Nov. 17, 5 p.m. at the Rockdale County Rescue and Fire Department headquarters on 1496 Rockbridge Road. I urge you to ask time off from work and be there by 5 p.m. to ask your questions.

We have a great sheriff and fire chief and we must do our part to ensure our schools and community will be ready for at least the next 20 years once this multi-million dollar purchase is made. We will not be able to go back and get a redo. It will be too late then so the time is now for those of you who are civic and homeowner association board members to start now to learn what we should do next. Please get your members involved.

See you on Nov. 17.

--Steve Macke