Half-price emergency radios available, but will Butler County jurisdictions buy?

The availability of half-price Motorola public safety radios have some Butler County jurisdictions taking a harder look at replacing the radios their police and fire officials use.

Butler County commissioners last week set a deal on a $10 million contract with Motorola to replace the communications system and radios. The deal — originally estimated at $19.2 million for about 3,100 radios and the new infrastructure system — includes 1,000 radios. Roughly 300 of those are available for local jurisdictions to purchase from the county.

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Miami University has already agreed to spend $189,000 to purchase 42 radios, but the school appears to be the only buyer so far. Miami University Police Chief John McCandless said it made sense to buy in bulk.

“With our current radios soon becoming unserviceable, we appreciate that the sheriff’s office invited us to participate in the discount that comes with the bulk purchase,” McCandless said. “We are fortunate to be able to make the purchase this year at Miami.”

Motorola has stopped making the radios the county public safety agencies and others use and won’t service them beyond 2018.

The county more than halved its order with the communication giant, but Butler County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Matt Franke said it still got a half-price deal that is good until March 30. 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.

“If you look at the math, it’s obvious that through the negotiation Motorola pretty much gave the commissioners the 50 percent discount on the 1,000 radios that they only offered before on the larger quantity,” Franke said.

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Fairfield was the first community to budget for the radios ahead of time, but Police Chief Mike Dickey said he isn’t certain he is ready to discard 100 existing radios and buy from the county.

“I don’t know at this point whether we’re just going to wholesale replace them,” Dickey said. “Candidly, I have a hard time trying to identify the cost benefit to it. What’s the best way to go? What it comes down to is this: we could buy the radios now for that deep discount they’ve got, or we could buy them as needed for a lesser discount, and how do I cost out what that extra savings is worth over a lengthy period of time?”

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West Chester Twp. has also budgeted for some radio replacements next year. Trustee Mark Welch said the township will spend $135,000 to replace 31 radios for police and fire. The township has 204 radios. He said they will phase in the replacements.

“We have a certain about of money budgeted for next year for these radios, at the 50 percent price we’re simply going to use that same amount of money and buy twice as many radios,” Welch said. “We have that replacement over multiple years so that it doesn’t impact any particular budget significantly.”

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The two largest cities in the county are looking at close to $1 million each to replace their devices. Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins said they are still evaluating the issue. Hamilton Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi said the same, but radios are not in his budget for next year.

“We are currently evaluating all of the information,” Scrimizzi said. “This will cost the city of Hamilton approximately $800,000 to replace all the public safety radios and before we spend that kind of money, we want to make sure that we have explored all options.”

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Liberty Twp.’s police radios are covered under its contract with the sheriff’s office, but the township will need 55 devices for the fire department. Ethan Klussman, the township’s new fire chief, may have found a comparable radio that is almost half the county’s discounted rate, according to Trustee Tom Farrell.

“We’re analyzing the options to make a decision on what’s the best bang for the buck,” Farrell said.

Monroe City Manager Bill Brock said the city will consider the $300,000 purchase during budget discussions in January.

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