By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
The county's emergency services committee requested another communications company to quote how much they would charge to maintain the county's P-25 emergency communications radio system.
The committee previously requested the same from Cassidian Communications and last month they were given a quote of $74,426 per year. Cassidian was formerly knows as EADS, which is the company that installed the P-25 digital trunking emergency communications system.
Linda McSweeney of Cassidian gave a presentation to the committee and said the county would also have to spend roughly $8,784 to upgrade to a Solarwind SNMP manager on a separate Dell server in order for the company to provide remote monitoring of the radio system.
"Engineers have investigated the coverage complaints with the system and it comes back to subscriber (radio) issues," McSweeney said.
Eric Ritzman, P-25 radio system consultant for the county, previously reported the problems emergency employees were having with their radios and coverage issues was with their Kenwood radios and Kenwood was working on a software patch to improve the coverage issues.
Ritzman explained the radio signal was not sticking with one tower and was transferring to the next. There are five towers in the county.
"The software patch that Kenwood has seems to eliminate that problem," Ritzman said.
Ritzman installed the patch on Roy Turner's radio and Terry Carter's radio and two others. Turner, who is a paramedic with EMS and a 7th District county commissioner who serves on the emergency services committee, said he noticed a difference and the coverage issues have been much better.
"We tried on a few to see if there was improvement before installing it on more than 400 radios. It takes about 15 minutes to install," Ritzman said.
Carter said he hadn't noticed much of a difference on his radio, but that he hadn't been using it as much. Carter is an employee with the Cumberland County Fire Department and is a 6th District county commissioner and also on the emergency services committee.
Both Carter and Turner live in troubled coverage areas that include western and eastern Cumberland County.
Ritzman also recommended the county follow a technology agreement the county had with Cassidian on the radio system which requires a $138,000 minimum upgrade to hardware on the radio system and some software upgrades. Ritzman said the county is currently two software versions behind on the technology upgrade. In order to upgrade the software, the county needs to upgrade its hardware in order to run the newer version of software.
When the upgrade cost came before the financial management committee several commissioners questioned the upgrades on the radio system, including Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner.
"I don't like paying thousands of dollars to have spare servers sitting in a closet while they become obsolete," Lynch said.
Ritzman said if the county did not do the upgrade, then Cassidian would not be responsible for issues with the radio system.
However, McSweeney said if the county had a maintenance contract with Cassidian they could monitor the system for problems and be more able to repair problem areas in the system and the current system would continue to be covered.
Lynch requested a price on a maintenance plan from Cassidian for the radio system the way it is, without any upgrades.
McSweeney said, "Your current version of software will be supported as long as you have a maintenance plan, but keep in mind you are two versions behind."
Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner asked Ritzman, "What do you recommend?"
Ritzman said the upgrade was recommended.
"What if we do nothing?" 2nd District Commissioner and Emergency Services Committee Chairperson Nancy Hyder asked.
"Well, the software will be out of coverage in six months. If the servers need to be replaced they will have to be bought either refurbished or on second-hand market and it could take a while to get them," Ritzman said.
"Your costs could be unknown," McSweeney said.
McSweeney said she was only going to originally talk about strictly the maintenance plan offer, but the company also had an additional offer.
"If you were to include an extra $31,000 per year (in addition to the $74,426) and a ten-year commitment, we could include an evergreen agreement and cover and replace hardware during that time frame. I just wanted you to have that number," McSweeney said.
Lynch said he didn't think the "built in obsolete time on the hardware was this bad. I thought it would last more than five years."
Koester said he felt the county definitely needed a maintenance plan.
"I think we ought to find out if the radio upgrade is going to help before we spend a ton of money on this," Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner said.
Hyder recommended the committee think about the offers and meet again Feb. 19, the night of the county commission meeting. The others agreed.
They also requested a representative of the Central Communications Company of Knoxville to look at the radio system and give an offer of how much they would charge to maintain the P-25 radio system the way it is.
McSweeney said she wanted the committee to know that she was Cumberland County's care manager and not a salesperson who gets paid by commission.
"We value Cumberland County and we want to make sure you are happy with the system and we will help you however we can. I think if the subscriber (radio) issues get worked out it will help. We want you to get something that will make you happy and we'll work with Central Communications so they know what they would need," McSweeney said.
Lynch then made a motion to have Central Communications come back to the county with an offer for a maintenance plan on the P-25 emergency communications system the way it is for hardware and software.
Johnny Presley, 3rd District commissioner, supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.