- Denise G. Callahan Staff Writer
Butler County taxpayers won’t be on the hook for extra radios Butler County commissioners ordered, that local jurisdictions apparently don’t want.
Last summer, the county faced a $19.2 million bill to replace the obsolete public safety system and about 3,000 radios that sheriff’s deputies, police, firefighters and others all carry. Some local cities, townships and other jurisdictions were taken by surprise by the bill, and many are now saying they aren’t going to buy replacement in bulk from the county.
The county was able to negotiate a $10 million deal with Motorola for the new infrastructure system and half-price radios, even though they cut the total order down to 1,000. The county needs 700 devises but ordered an additional 300 at the bargain price for the other jurisdictions.
Butler County had to sign a contract to get half-priced public safety radios from Motorola, but since local jurisdictions aren’t ordering extras as expected, the deal with the communications equipment giant can be adjusted , according to County Administrator Charlie Young.
The county will definitely buy 750 radios — the 700 it needs and 50 extra — and the other 250 radios in its contract could be returned.
“(Motorola understands) that the local jurisdictions and agencies are not signing up as fast as anybody anticipated,” he said. “So what they’ve basically told us is they will work with us to market these 250 additional radios we have, and any radios that are purchased in Butler County from Motorola, the first 250 will be these ones we have under contract.”
Motorola has stopped making the radios the county public safety agencies use and won’t service them beyond this year.
If all 250 are not sold by the end of the contract term, the county can give them back and won’t have to pay for them.
“Motorola has said they are going to make sure we’re made whole,” Young said. “That these radios would be sold or that Motorola would be willing to take them back.”
Major Mike Craft with the sheriff’s office said the county doesn’t have any signed contracts with local jurisdictions for the extra radios yet. Miami University appears to be the only jurisdiction that plans to buy in bulk and has budgeted $189,000 to buy 42 radios.
Fairfield was the only jurisdiction to budget ahead of time for the radio replacement, but Police Chief Mike Dickey said they will not be making the bulk purchase.
“We don’t see the imperative of replacing all the radios now,” Dickey said. “We’re still willing to replace them as needed, even though the discount won’t be as much.”
Hamilton, the county’s largest city, would have to pay about $800,000 for the radio replacement. Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi said Hamilton won’t be buying now. .
“We will not be purchasing any radio’s this year, there are still too many unanswered questions,” Scrimizzi said.
Had the jurisdictions purchased the extra radios under the county contract, the county negotiated the half-price deal for additional purchases that is good until March 30. Capt. Matt Franke said the law enforcement radios with holsters and microphones cost $4,105, and devises for fire and medical personnel cost $4,169 because they need a different microphone. The prices include a $500 trade-in.
Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli said the department hasn’t made a concrete decision yet.
“There are places out there that will service them and plenty of parts that are available,” Lolli said. “That’s a big reason why a lot of departments, police and fire, aren’t rushing to fund the purchase of the new radios.”
West Chester Twp. budgeted $132,000 for police and fire radios this year, but the equipment will only be replaced as needed. Liberty Twp. trustees have asked their new fire chief Ethan Klussman to gather data before they make a decision.
“Chief Klussman is working on gathering data within Liberty on how many radios we have, when we purchased them, how long we expect them to last, so we can make an educated guess on how many radios we think we need to buy,” Board President Tom Farrell said.
The county commissioners agreed to prepay about $3 million of the total $4.5 million bill for the 1,000 radios on Monday, saving about $78,000 in interest. The money is coming from general fund carryover and $2.1 million out of the sheriff’s 2017 budget.