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Originally published Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Patrol thinks it can save $12M on new radio system

The Washington State Patrol thinks it can replace its radio system for $12 million less than expected under a plan that would sidestep the competitive bidding process.

The Associated Press

quotes Explain to me how spending $41 million versus $53 million saves $12 million. How about... Read more

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TACOMA, Wash. —

The Washington State Patrol thinks it can replace its radio system for $12 million less than expected under a plan that would sidestep the competitive bidding process.

Competitors have complained, but the patrol is expected to sign a no-bid contract with Motorola Solutions as early as Monday, The News Tribune ( http://is.gd/mIO4Bq) reported in Sunday's newspaper.

Officials say a partnership with the federal government lowers the cost of the technology upgrade to 41 million. But only Motorola makes equipment that is compatible with the federal Department of Justice radio system.

"It's an opportunity we can't pass up that saves us a lot of money and gets us where we need to be," said Bob Schwent, commander of the patrol's electronic services division.

The upgrade of equipment, some of which dates back to 1982, is part of an overhaul aimed at complying with a Federal Communications Commission mandate to free up space on the radio spectrum for more users. The federal government has set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2013 for the upgrades.

The new radios also are expected to make it easier for troopers to talk to other law enforcement officers and firefighters.

Schwent said his agency had done 90 percent of the work of going out to bid by September when the Department of Justice invited the patrol to join their system rather than build its own.

The state had already connected radios along the northern border to the DOJ system for last year's Vancouver Olympics. That could make the changeover faster and cheaper, Schwent said.

But other companies, including Florida-based Harris Corp., complained to the patrol that they didn't have a chance to bid, Schwent said.

One critic is Nick Ruark, the general manager of Quality MobileCommunications, a reseller of radio systems. Ruark said his Vancouver company is too small to hope to take part in the project, but that the deal struck him as a bad idea.

"The fact that the state can save some money is one thing, and that's a good thing," Ruark said. But a competitor might one day design a cheaper or better system, he said. "Seems to me that sole-sourcing, it essentially locks them into that one vendor and they're not going to have any options in the future."

State lawmakers also questioned the sole-source contract at a Thursday briefing. But Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said afterward he was satisfied with the answers.

"It sounded to me like they had done their due diligence to make sure it was a fair process, so to speak," he said.

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Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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