Archive for Wednesday, November 14, 2007

County to team with KDOT on radios

November 14, 2007

As Leavenworth County officials navigate multimillion-dollar upgrades to the county's aging emergency communications system in the coming months, they will have the benefit of direct oversight from the Kansas Department of Transportation along the way.

In an agreement signed Thursday, Nov. 8, the County Commission contracted directly with KDOT, which is undergoing similar improvements on a statewide basis. Commissioners opted to use KDOT as a consultant rather than signing a contract with Motorola, the communications provider for the project.

When complete, the county will have a full microwave background of transmitters and receivers installed on seven area tower sites, digital radios and a computer system to run them, as well as all cabling, antennae and other equipment necessary to give adequate signal coverage to 95 percent of the county.

The improvements are designed to allow interoperability between emergency service providers within the county. The improvements eventually could allow Leavenworth sheriffs' officers, firefighters and paramedics to communicate directly with agencies outside the county at the flip of a switch or the push of a button.

On Thursday, County Counselor David Van Parys emphasized what he saw as the benefits of contracting directly with KDOT.

"We will achieve a system that the county wants but with oversight from KDOT," Van Parys said. " ... KDOT serves as a project manager subject to board input."

Van Parys also said the partnership with KDOT would give Leavenworth County the same bond rating as the state gets.

As for the total cost of improvements, Van Parys said the project would be a "proverbial work in progress."

"You won't know exactly how much it will cost until you flip the switch," he said.

An earlier contract proposal from Motorola that included all equipment and installation totaled approximately $12.5 million, however.

Van Parys did say that if the contract is cancelled for any reason, the board is only liable for the expenditures accumulated to that point.

"There are no undoable commitments here," he told the board.

The communications upgrade has been proposed as a possible expenditure of the county's voter-approved 1-cent sales tax that runs through 2016. When approved in 2004, it was estimated the tax would generate about $27 million for the county's coffers over its 10-year life

Commissioners expressed various concerns about the project before unanimously approving it.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber wanted to be certain the board was not investing in new radios for area municipalities, such as cities' police departments or rural fire stations.

"We're negotiating for county equipment only," Graeber made clear.

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson requested that some type of provision be made so that, in the instance of an emergency shutdown, the state would be required to bring the county's system back up to speed just as quickly as its own.

In other business Thursday, the board:

  • Voted, 3-0, to allow Scott Hoelting, who plans to add onto his home on the west side of 178th Street in the county, to proceed with obtaining a building permit through the County Planning and Zoning Department even though Hoelting's plans will encroach on the county's setback.

Commissioners deemed Hoelting's expansion not to be adverse to public interest but said they were concerned about setting a bad precedent for the future.

  • Offered Human Resources Director Diane Collins a two-year contract renewal at an annual salary of $53,430, subject to yearly review.
  • Approved, 3-0, the purchase of a 2,000-square-foot salt and sand storage building from Cover-All of Overland Park at a cost of $21,819.
  • Voted, 3-0, to contract with Kansas City, Mo.-based Delich, Roth & Goodwillie Engineers for plans to improve a bridge running over Dempsey Road.
  • Granted, 3-0, an exception for a Health Department employee who exceeded more than the 24-hour level of comp time usually permitted due to participation in two flu clinics and weekend training.
  • Met in two executive sessions totaling 25 minutes to discuss potential litigation and non-elected personnel.

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