ELIZABETHTON — In a special called meeting on Monday evening, the Carter County Commission soundly voted down a bid of $3,428,687.40 for a new countywide communications system that would have provided up-to-date radio communication for 10 agencies, including law enforcement, emergency medical services, and fire departments.
The motion was to vote down the $3.5 million bid and to start over with a new request for proposals for a countywide communications system.
According to the Carter County Clerk’s Office, the vote to reject the bid was 19-2, with three absences. Isaiah Grindstaff and Thomas Proffitt were the only “no” votes. Mike Hill, Randall Jenkins and Gary Bailey were absent.
The vote comes after extensive research has been done on a proposed new communications system for the mountainous county. Much of the research has been done by Carter County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Tom Smith.
Smith told commissioners that the project had been researched for over 15 years, with various options reviewed, to include the Tennessee Statewide System.
Smith said the Tennessee Statewide System did not fit the county’s needs. He said it was too expensive because of the fees charged. He also said the state system uses an ultrahigh frequency band, while a very high frequency would work better in the county’s mountainous areas. The county learned about three weeks ago that fees had been waived.
Smith concluded his presentation to the County Commission on Monday night by saying “the presented system from the RFP (request for proposals) is our best option. With the engineering study that has been conducted in detail and the tests that have been done by both the county and city stakeholders has proven that our coverage will be greatly improved and we will have the interoperability that we truly need. The proposed communications system will be easily expandable if future needs arise.”
Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby said Tuesday morning the defeat of the bid means the communications project would start over. Woodby said the project would be sent to one of the commission’s committees for consideration, but it was not certain which one would take it up. She thought it would most likely start with the Building and Grounds Committee.
On Tuesday afternoon, Woodby issued a statement in which she said, “A top priority for me includes updating the public safety communications system involving the sheriff’s department, the Elizabethton Police Department, Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency Management Agency, the Carter County Emergency and Rescue Squad, Carter County 911, our volunteer fire departments, and other agencies. It would benefit the whole county. It would help keep our officers safer, It would help eliminate ‘dead’ areas where they cannot communicate by radio. It is about safety for our law enforcement and public safety professionals. This project is a top priority for my office and the Carter County Commission.”
The countywide system was designed to include such agencies as the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabethton’s police and fire departments, the seven county’s volunteer fire departments, the county’s constables, Rescue Squad, Highway Department, landfill, the county School System and the Elizabethton Public Works Department.