Butler County cities react to $12M cost to replace fire, police radios

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Butler County cities react to $12M cost to replace fire, police radios

Butler County is still determining how to pay for $19.2 million in upgraded infrastructure and replacement radios that police and firefighters use, equipment that is about to become extinct, according to some officials.

Motorola, the provider of Butler County’s equipment, doesn’t make the radios anymore and beginning in 2019 won’t service them. Local jurisdictions are responsible for replacing their own radios.

The tentative breakdown of costs is $12.5 million for all of the radios, a mandatory infrastructure upgrade to the system itself — completely on the county’s dime — is $6.7 million.

The conundrum is whether to buy in bulk now, which will get a cheaper per unit price, to replace the equipment, or replace as needed. 

And the radios are not cheap.

Fairfield Police Chief Mike Dickey said the state price for the radios is $7,178; with a 27 percent discount it drops to $5,240; and in a larger quantity closer to $4,000.

Here’s what leaders in some Butler County communities are saying about the expense:

HAMILTON

For the city of Hamilton and the other large entities with 200-plus radios the cost could run $1.1 million minimum, depending on how many jurisdictions sign on to the bulk buy.

Hamilton Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi said he needs more information — the police and fire chiefs are meeting with the county later this month — before he can make a recommendation on how to proceed.

“Our failure rate right now is very minimal on any of these radios,” Scrimizzi said. “It’s going to to be a huge cost, more than a quarter of a million dollars to the city. We’re going to dig deep into it to see if there is actually a need.”

FAIRFIELD

Fairfield appears to be the only Butler County community that budgeted for the upgrade. Police Chief Mike Dickey said the police department needs 95 radios.

“We’ve budgeted $250,000 a year for two years in our capital budget,” the chief said. “Although if we had to do it all at once I think we could swing it … I based it on the $5,000 price. We could save a lot of money and do a lot more for the community if we get it in bulk with everybody else.”

WEST CHESTER TWP.

In West Chester Twp., with 204 radios for police and fire, it would cost around $1 million to replace them.

Dennis Dick, the township’s Communications Center operations manager, said he is not recommending a full replacement at this time. He likened it to the fact General Motors no longer makes Pontiacs anymore, but you still see them on the roads.

“Obviously we’ll replace radios on an as-needed basis, we always planned for that to some extent,” Dick said. “But to just carte blanche say we’re going to replace every radio, we don’t feel that that’s needed for West Chester at this time.”

On the issue of bulk buying, Dick said “even though it’s a cost savings per radio, it’s a better cost savings to just continue to operate these radios.”

LIBERTY TWP.

In Liberty Twp., where the fire department has 57 radios, it could cost almost $300,000 to replace all the radios.

“Since we just heard of this the other day, it was something new,” Liberty Twp. Trustee Board President Christine Matacic said. “I had heard rumors they were looking into what might be available. But the commissioners had never communicated to us what they were thinking.”

MONROE

Monroe Police Chief Bob Buchanan said he and Fire Chief John Centers have discussed the replacement but haven’t come to any conclusions yet. He does have a major concern if they don’t swap the radios out.

“One of the biggest questions for me falls down to how long will these radios function effectively on our current system, while remaining safe for our officers,” Buchanan said.

MIDDLETOWN

City Manager Doug Adkins said the city doesn’t have enough information to comment on the situation.

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