Agreement for $150M radio system reached
The Washoe County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to join the inter-local agreement that will build and operate the Shared Nevada Radio System.
That’s a $150 million project that will build an 800-megahertz public safety radio network for Northern and rural Nevada with Washoe County, the Nevada Department of Transportation and Sierra Pacific Power, which is owned by NV Energy, as partners.
Washoe County’s approval was much more abbreviated and smoother than the Monday hearing before the Nevada Transportation Board which required more than 90 minutes of questions and testimony before the panel headed by Gov. Brian Sandoval unanimously approved the inter-local agreement.
Washoe Chief Information Officer Craig Betts said the next step is to put out the Request for Proposal to potential vendors.
The issue of vendors was the big hang-up before the transportation board. There have been repeated claims Washoe County is biased toward Harris as a vendor because it has already purchased nearly $1 million worth of Harris equipment for its existing radio network — putting other potential vendors such as Motorola at a disadvantage when the bids are evaluated.
Several members questioned what would happen if Washoe County pulled out because the NDOT evaluation team selected a different vendor.
Assistant Washoe County Manager Ken Shiller told the board it would cost Washoe nearly $1 million if a different vendor was selected but “we are committed to this process.”
“We are in and we have to stay in,” he said. “That million dollars is cost prohibitive but pulling out of the system is much more cost prohibitive.”
IT manager Sean Taylor of Washoe County said he and his team are dedicated to keeping the RFP process fair.
“I want the best radio system for my users and I don’t care who provides it,” he said.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Lou Holland assured the board the RFP process is designed to keep bias out of the selection process. He said the bids are examined objectively for their strengths and weaknesses and the technical selection committee has no access to the price the bidders put on their proposals. The issue of cost, he said, is evaluated by a separate committee.
Holland said then the two pieces — price and technical specifications for each bidder — are combined and the results submitted to the NDOT director to pick the winner. He said NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon will not know who submitted each bid when he reviews the results.
To actually pick a winner and build the system will take about five years but, when completed, experts say it will enable all the public safety partners from police and fire to forestry and Sierra Pacific to communicate seamlessly with each other during any emergency.
The state of Nevada will put up about $90 million of the cost with Washoe County and Sierra Pacific making up the remainder of the total.
Washoe County’s sign-off on Tuesday completes the inter-local agreement, allowing the project to move ahead.