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Board OKs $19 million radio system for Newton's first responders
Company says it will eliminate most "dead spots" encountered with current equipment
0621 CovNews Radios
Clay Whitehead of Motorola gives details on the new 911 radio system to Newton County commissioners Tuesday, June 16, at the Historic Courthouse in Covington.

COVINGTON, Ga. — County commissioners have approved a contract with Motorola for a new emergency radio system that will eliminate most "dead spots" emergency workers have encountered while using the current system.

The new, $15 million system will be paid for in part by a combination of proceeds from the 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, 911 fees and possible funding from other first-responder agencies which are part of the 911 system in Newton County, said County Manager Lloyd Kerr.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners took the action during a special called meeting Thursday, June 18, after putting a decision on hold two days earlier because they wanted more specific information on the source of funding. 

Safety officials countywide had said the system was badly needed to replace its current system which often cannot be used in “dead spots” in areas like Porterdale. 

"That's a serious situation," said Chairman Marcello Banes.

Kerr told commissioners the county needed a system that would provide at least 97% coverage throughout the county "and one that would provide communications in areas where public safety employees are known to have problems."

"Other priorities included the ability to expand, interoperability with other agencies inside and outside of the county, and one that would provide for our needs well into the future," he wrote to commissioners. 

The total cost will be $15.2 million for all equipment, hardware and training and an additional $5.6 million for service and maintenance on the radios for the next 15 years, Kerr said. 

The county will provide two-thirds of funding and will seek additional contributions from Porterdale, Covington and Oxford city governments in intergovernmental agreements, he said.

"That cost would be prorated based on call volume," Kerr said. 

He said the county included replacement or upgrade of the 911 radio system in a 2017 SPLOST voters approved.

"The budget for this project was set at $3.66 million (in the 2017 SPLOST). Very early on we realized that this project was woefully under budgeted, and that we would need assistance in the procurement process in order to obtain the best system," Kerr said.

The county then hired 911 communications specialist TUSA Consulting which helped county officials with telling potential bidders the specifics of what it wanted in a new system.

Motorola was selected out of three bidders and pricing negotiations concluded June 11, he said.