Citizens for Better Government
Blount County Tennessee
Sheriff buys $4 million
worth of digital radios – taxpayers get bludgeoned
The Blount County
Commission did it again. At their August meeting, they decided, with little
information or thought, to spend more than $4 million of taxpayer money, $2
million from the County and the balance from Maryville and Alcoa, on a new
digital radio system for the Sheriff. You will remember the millions that were
wasted each time the Commission made a decision on the County debt, with little
understanding of what they were doing. The Commission’s digital radio decision
will likely result in a similar waste of taxpayer money.
There are a number of very disturbing loose ends with this
digital radio deal.
other things, the Sheriff bought 35 car radios at $3021 each, 200
portables at $3366 ea., 5 car radios at $3015ea, and 130 portables at
$2886 ea.. This is a grand total of 365 radios for $1.1 million. The
Sheriff has a total of 280 employees, including clerical and food service.
More than 365 radios for less than 250 people who could ever need one, and
more than half of them are off shift and sleeping at any given time!
Commission was told they had to act quickly because the Motorola state
contract is running out. But the existing state contract, negotiated in
2006, had been extended to the end of October, so there was no need to act
- In fact,
waiting a few months would have saved us a great deal of money. The old
contract was negotiated in 2006 when there were few suppliers of the
digital radios the Sheriff wanted to buy. Today, Motorola, Harris,
EFJohnson, Cisco, Infocomm, and Raytheon all make these radios. And these
radios are digital not analog. Moore’s law applies to digital equipment.
Moore’s law says the price of a given set of digital functions comes down
by roughly half every two years. Lower prices are the good news.
law also means functions can double every two years. That means
obsolescence will be a major consideration in the future. The proposed
radios are likely to be obsolete long before the County’s 10-year lease
purchase payments are completed. How many of you are using the cell phone
you had 10 years ago?
state contract administrator told us that he is negotiating a new contract
for the kind of radios the Sheriff purchased. He expects the new contract
to go into effect in November. He said he expected the new contract
to offer significantly lower prices, because of the large number
of competitors now making digital radios.
opinion is confirmed by a review of other states’ contracts for these
radios. Other states are getting significantly lower prices than the
County received, and two year warranties versus the one year the County
radios raise the possibility of gaps in coverage where radio signals
cannot be received. Other municipalities are getting coverage guarantees,
something that is glaringly absent from the Blount County Sheriff’s deal.
The Sheriff has not even done the study to assure the coverage of the new
system will be adequate. Without this study and coverage guarantees, the
County taxpayers may well be facing the need for the construction of
expensive new towers in the near future.
The Sheriff chose not to wait a few months for the new State
contract that could enable us to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. He
elected not to do the studies to give us a real coverage map for our new system.
Why bother? He will just come back to the taxpayers when he needs more money.
Call the Sheriff. Ask him
why he was in such a hurry to give this gift of taxpayer money to his friends