By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
Although the Cumberland County Commission has already approved $100,000 to create a single-site, wide-band paging system for emergency responders in the county's fire department, members of the budget committee have requested a second full county commission work session in order to ask questions since the sole bid for the paging system came in higher than anticipated.
The sole bid for the paging system was from Communications Group, Comm Tech, of Nashville and came in at $128,962, according to a handout of the proposal given to the budget committee last month.
Eric Ritzman, county emergency radio system consultant, and Jeff Dodson, Cumberland County Fire Chief and EMS director were on the agenda to discuss the system with the budget committee last week and the committee tabled the discussion for a full county commission work session.
"Ladies and gentleman, I think we ought to defer discussion over the matter until we can have a full county work session. There's no point in going through the presentation and then having to do it again. That way everyone can ask the questions they need answered," said Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner and budget committee chairman.
"I think it would be better to do it in a work session. I know I've got a lot of questions and I'm sure others do too," said Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner.
Harvel made a motion to have a work session with the full county commission to discuss the paging system. His motion was supported by Dave Hassler, 3rd District commissioner, and unanimously approved.
During the August county commission meeting, resolution 08-2012-6 was approved and took $100,000 from the county's unrestricted fund balance to purchase the communications equipment needed for the pager system.
The subject has been discussed on several occasions by the budget committee and emergency services committee. Both committees recently met for a work session to discuss the matter prior to the county commission's approval of the $100,000.
Ritzman explained to county commissioners that once the county follows a Federal Communications Commission mandate requiring all state and local public safety entities to go to narrow-band communication, the county will lose approximately 30 percent of its pager coverage in the county for volunteers and firefighters.
Ritzman previously told commissioners on both committees the system would cost roughly $125,000.
The narrow-band mandate goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013. Although the county-wide pager system would be new, it would not offer additional coverage, but maintain the county's current coverage for pager reception.
According to the resolution, the Cumberland County Fire Department has recommended the county implement the paging only system on one of the channels reserved by the FCC for this purpose.
The $100,000 is to purchase the communication equipment and the funds will come from the county's unrestricted fund balance.
After Harvel's motion for a full county work session passed, Ritzman said, "Now, I did originally tell you the cost would be around $125,000. There were a couple of things we could do to bring it down a little. You told me to include everything in the specs for the bid and I did."
The county commission will meet for the work session to discuss the paging system for the Cumberland County Fire Department on Monday, Oct. 15, at 4 p.m. in the large courtroom of the Cumberland County Courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.
The county commission meets for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. in the large courtroom on Monday, Oct. 15, as well.