Many police and fire agencies across Butler County eschewed the county’s $10 million replacement contract with Motorola in favor of a wait and see approach. Several departments have been testing Kenwood radios as a cheaper alternative and now the fire chiefs are seeking a grant to cover the cost. ———————————————————————— Fairfield Police officer Scott Webb displays his radio outside the police station, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. Butler County officials and police and fire departments across the county are looking at a $19.2 million price tag to replace parts of the 800 MHz communications systems, including the radios first responders carry.GREG LYNCH / STAFF

More Butler County jurisdictions jump on emergency radio discount

The city council will vote Thursday on whether to spend more than $240,000 to buy 65 radios and accessories for the police, fire and public works departments. The city can get the radios for $3,768 instead of $7,511 if it orders by Dec. 31.

The Butler County Fire Chiefs Association will soon submit a $2 million request for Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program federal dollars to replace about 527 emergency responder radios. Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer said the 14 departments applying for the grant funds were able to negotiate the half-price deal with Motorola, even though the purchase won’t happen until after the grant process is over sometime next year.

RELATED: Butler County departments seeking $2M to aid emergency radio replacement

“We committed to purchasing the radios either with the grant or with cash,” Mercer said. “One way or the other we have to do it. So we got a price that is fixed, and that would be the same price next year as it is today. The price increase if we hadn’t committed to purchasing would have doubled.”

About two years ago, the county faced a $19.2 million bill to replace the obsolete public safety communications system and about 3,000 radios that sheriff’s deputies, police, firefighters and others all carry. Motorola stopped making the old radios and wouldn’t service them beyond 2018.

Most local cities, townships and other jurisdictions balked at the $12.5 million radio bill — the county’s share was estimated at $3.5 million — and began looking for cheaper alternatives. The remainder of the cost covered infrastructure of the system.

The county negotiated a $10 million agreement for its needs and a half-price deal with Motorola for other jurisdictions. When county officials learned last year a 2021 software upgrade could produce “critical failures” in the old radios, several jurisdictions agreed to the bulk upgrade and purchased the new equipment. They are: Fairfield, Fairfield Twp., Middletown (police radios only), Miami University, New Miami and West Chester Twp.

Trenton Fire Chief Darrell Yater said his department was included in the council action this week so financing can be set in motion, but the purchase for fire won’t occur until after the grant result is known.

“Our funding is going to be included in that motion but we’re hoping we get the grant and we won’t be using the money, or at least all of that money for radios,” he said. “It’ll just be a percentage of it.”

The total for fire equipment is $114,015 without the grant, or 5 percent with the grant. The cost is $99,192 for the police department and $27,253 for the public works department.

Liberty Twp. is the “host” fire department for the grant application to buy the radios, and Fire Chief Ethan Klussman has said officials hope the joint effort will help secure the money.

MORE: Safety of Butler County residents challenged again with radio issues

“Statistically speaking the AFG looks at regional grants more favorably than they do individual jurisdictional grants,” Klussman said. “That’s why we are coming together to do this, to try and increase our chances of being awarded a grant.”

Klussman said he expects the grant application to be open for submissions in early December.

The other jurisdictions involved in the grant application are: the cities of Hamilton, Middletown, Monroe, Oxford, Trenton and Hanover and the townships of Madison, Milford, Morgan, Oxford, Reily, Ross, St. Clair and Wayne.

Hamilton is the largest jurisdiction and Mercer said their price, for fire only, is $267,948 for 50 portable radios and 19 mobile units for the fire trucks.

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