City leaders looking at buying radios

Published 12:30 am Friday, November 30, 2018


NATCHEZ — City leaders were close to moving forward on purchasing radios to help city workers stay online and communicate with others in the state during emergencies, but a few snags arose Tuesday that muddied the waters of the process.

Aldermen were prepared to send in the best two bids for consideration, but City Attorney Robert Latham said the Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MSWIN) has an exception to the standard bidding process that requires the organization to consider all the bids and use their expertise to select the best service for the best price.

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“They make sure the radios they bid on work with their system and are adequate,” Latham said.

After that, another snag arose. The city must purchase them soon in order to be online by the MSWIN March deadline.

The board planned to pay for the radios with a $180,000 FEMA Assistance to Firefighters grant, which is not expected to be issued in time to meet that deadline. Interim City Clerk James Johnston said the city cannot use the grant for items already purchased.

Police Chief Walter Armstrong said the board would have to call a special meeting to meet a Dec. 7 deadline and get the police, fire department and public works on line with the statewide network.

Latham said other options for getting the city on the emergency system include purchasing a limited number of radios for one or all departments and then fulfilling the greater need through the grant money.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he would meet with representatives from the police, fire and public works departments to determine the bare minimum of radios they would need to operate properly. Grennell said no minimum requirement from MSWIN exists.

Acting Fire Chief Ventris Green said the police need 29 mobiles and 50 portables, the fire department needs seven mobiles and 27 portables, and public works needs eight portables.

Seven radio providers submitted bids for 36 mobile radios and 85 portable radios. The bids ranged from $223,935 and $451,528.32.