Last month, the Sun-Sentinel reported that a new Broward County 911 dispatch system is planned to launch during 2017. Broward’s radio system is expected to be replaced in 2018. Despite budget pressures, operational issues and important political and public policy questions, Broward County staff hastily recommended the purchase of a more expensive radio system from the incumbent vendor, Motorola. With a history of problems with the current system, provided by Motorola,some believe Broward County and local cities planning to use the new Motorola radio system would be wise to slow down the process in order to ask critical questions about this important decision.

According to sources, Broward County staff rushed through the procurement process with a series of check-box forms that did not probe or assess the claims made by the two bidders on the project. Some of these claims, especially on Motorola’s side, were met with documentation “promising” to perform as required. When the time came to award the bid and the points were tabulated, the incumbent vendor’s proposal squeezed by 2% ahead (609 v. 594 points), even though Harris Corporation, a multi-billion communications vendor from neighboring Brevard County, can provide the required radio system at a 20% cost savings to taxpayers.

According to published reports, the Motorola dispatch system has had numerous, well-documented problems. The Sun-Sentinel reported, “past system complaints have included cell phone callers who were transferred between centers, unanswered calls due to technology issues and first responders sent to incorrect addresses.”

Why is Broward County set to reward a company that has a problematic service history and has significantly scaled back their presence in our community? Is Broward County willing to spend $4 million more for the new radio system when there is a much better offer on the table?

A bid protest filed by Harris with Broward County alleges serious problems with the bidding may offer some clues. The protest claims Motorola failed to provide material information to Broward County staff. Harris claims Motorola was allowed to change its proposal after the submission deadline and waive or negotiate 33 changes they proposed to the Broward County’s required contract form.

Did Motorola do this after seeing Harris proposed no changes to the contract form?

Bottom Line: The County and its municipalities should slow down and discuss this critical public safety issue before rushing into a purchase decision and spending an extra $4 million of the taxpayers’ money.