Dear Editor: As I settle into the new year and reflect on not only the national political issues but some of the local issues as well, there has become a tendency for our commissioners to favor predetermined outcomes and sole-source contracts which I feel is contrary to the communities' best interests. There are three or four that stand out over the dozens of tenders that have been predetermined or sole sourced by our county commissioners.
The water department's sole source to Neptune without a Request for Proposals and without consulting the Sewerage and Water Commission and that Richard Oden approved this business transaction and by passing the Water and Sewer Commission for $300,000 purchase of smart meters on these Water and Sewer meetings where this was heatedly debated by the county commissioners. The department just went out and purchased $300,000 of wireless meters and is operating them without a FCC license. The fine for a FCC violation if caught is $9,000 a day. This event was written about in the papers and ECTNEWS and yet no real action was taken.
The Copier Machine Contract was given to an outside company despite their being ranked second and not low bidder. The low bidder was a local company and they were the highest rated. This predetermined winner is a thinly veiled sole source contract of printing to a company outside of Rockdale that was let personally by the chairman. Yet another slate of business taken from a Rockdale county business and given to an Atlanta-based business for the insurance that the county purchases for our employees, thank you Mr. Oden. More people unemployed in Rockdale County is not what we need to bring in revenue for our county.
The one that really makes me question where the heart and soul of our commissioners are is the 911 public safety radio communications system. More than $5,000,000 dollars sole sourced to Motorola for a supposed upgrade to the old analog radio network that has been in place. In September 2011, a RFP (request for proposal) was let and immediately it was outed as a poor excuse for a RFP but a thinly veiled sole source contract to Motorola. The county then rescinded the RFP stating that there had been a breach of protocol in responding to a question from a vendor. That event was in early October. In the meantime, the Rockdale County Civic Association, formerly called the South Rockdale Civic Association, had invited and received RSVP's from seven subject matter experts Nov. 11, 2012, to sit on a panel to discuss the right way to acquire public safety communications technologies.
This panel was taped by EdwardCTracey.com Video News and was also live on the Internet through EdwardCTracey.comTVLive (ustream.tv/channel/edwardctracey-com).
Not one commissioner showed up and the Fire Chief and the Sheriff at the time came in and stood in the back of the room and never interacted with anyone of the experts. The contract was eventually sole sourced to Motorola under the guise of using the state contract to streamline the purchasing process (tinyurl.com/b84pqsd). Problem with that is that the items being purchased were never officially confirmed to be on the state contract and the pricing could not be verified because the contract was written in such away as you could not put your finger on any one line item to figure out how much it costs. During the SPLOST committee's closed door sessions, which never interviewed the competition and never asked to visit other systems in order to get a real world look at what a system entailed, the county's FCC license had expired and came within 30 days of losing the licenses if it were not for me pointing it out to them during a commissioners meeting. Which begs the question, do these people have any idea of what they are doing? The FCC license is the document that allows the county to use the radio system. The general details of the agreement were posed to the commissioners when they voted to sole source the contract to Motorola (tinyurl.com/ahp4fmm) which points out that the new digital P25 Phase 2 system would be installed and working by the end of 2012. There would be two additional towers in order to provide better radio coverage. Mr. Oden then signs the contract with Motorola and agrees to the terms which is 90 percent down payment ($4.5 million) upon signing the contract. I personally have never heard of a fair and balanced contract that required the purchasing entity to cough up 90 percent without any guarantees. What is even more disturbing is the status of the project to date. There have not been two new sites added to the radio system. Which would mean we now only have half a system at best. The modification to the FCC license which is in the hands of the FCC coordinators does not reflect that the equipment they are deploying is in fact the new P25 Phase 2 equipment (a contractual point) that was promised during the commissioners meeting who had been instructed by the SPLOST committee that the P25 Phase 2 was the critical technology that Rockdale had to have to serve the taxpayers of the county. So that said, only one of two things have transpired. Either the contract has been changed to purchase non P25 Phase 2 equipment and reduce the amount of towers in half. Or the FCC license modification has false information on it. Which begs the questions, why have they not added two new tower sites, and why are they not deploying the technology that the SPLOST subcommittee instructed them to purchase. Either way, Rockdale taxpayers have been sold a bill of goods that will not serve the county but could potential cost millions more to fix or worst case someone may die because the radio system does not provide adequate communications throughout our community.
Upon reflecting on this very important project, I find myself sitting here in shear wonderment trying for the life of me to figure out how in the world this county became so dysfunctional. So in an attempt to be part of the solution and not just a complaining taxpayer, I suggest in order to avoid anymore predetermined and sole-source contracts that we have five county commissioners - three posts and two at large in order to assure that two commissioners cannot run rough shod over the county guidelines and procure goods and services in a truly open and transparent system using the proven best practice of an open RFP. Assuring that there is stewardship in the ranks of our elected and employed staff.
Steve Macke, Rockdale County