LMR project in neutral: supervisors opt for consultant to manage radio project

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday voted 4-1 to publish a request for proposal (RFP) for a communications consultant to manage the completion of the county’s Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system.

Chairman Cecil Blum was the lone vote against; he said he would have preferred to first hire a consultant to do an assessment of the radio system.

Progress on the LMR system has ground to a halt in recent weeks following an August 11 decision of the LMR Advisory Board members to dissolve their board. See the August 14 Denison Review for details of their decision.

On August 11 the supervisors rejected a site, owned by Supervisor Kyle Schultz, for an LMR tower near Charter Oak, which was also reported in the August 14 Review.

Last Tuesday’s discussion spanned nearly 55 minutes; the account below is heavily edited and condensed.

The supervisors met two weeks ago with Mike Mazzitello, Sr., of Spring Valley, Wisconsin, and Rey Freeman, of Minnetonka, Minnesota, to discuss potentially hiring the pair as a consulting team to manage the project.

Mazzitello and Freeman suggested starting by having the supervisors hire them to do an assessment of the project.

So as to get more than one bid for that initial step, the supervisors the previous week voted to put out an RFP for several consultants to do an assessment of the project – but some confusion about the details of that plan had prevented Crawford County Auditor Terri Martens from moving it forward.

Schultz said his understanding of the proposal from the previous week was that it was to put out an RFP for an assessment – not to hire a consultant for the whole project.

He suggested a possibility would be just calling a second consultant from a list the supervisors had received from Carroll County.

Blum said his understanding of the previous week’s action was that the board was looking for validation of an initial assessment.

He suggested moving forward by hiring Rey Freeman and Associates.

Schultz suggested putting out an RFP for completion of the whole project, though he said he didn’t necessarily want to do that because of the cost.

Of putting out an RFP for the whole project, Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer said, “You’ll have transparency. Anybody who wants to bid on it can bid on it.

“If you only bring in one company to check against Rey Freeman you don’t know who you’re leaving out in the dark.”

Muhlbauer said it would be an RFP for completion of the project as had already been established by RACOM, the project contractor.

Blum said that an assessment this fall would leave the winter for work to go forward on the project. He said the construction season is now essentially over because the cranes that would be needed for the project are in use for cleanup efforts in eastern Iowa following the derecho damage of last month.

Schultz said the board had to decide between spending up to $100,000 to hire a consultant to manage the full project or $20,000 to have an assessment done.

Spread over several years, $100,000 is not that much, he said.

“$100,000 is $100,000. I don’t want to spend it,” Schultz said. “Are we going to do this and are we going to be at the same crossroads six months from now?”

“That’s my fear,” Blum said.

He said doing an assessment would cost only about 1 percent of the whole cost of the project.

“The existing LMR board has kind of stepped back” he said, “so the inertia to keep this project going sits as this table.”

After more discussion of the benefits of an assessment versus the benefits of putting out an RFP for the whole project, Schultz said it should be an RFP for the whole project.

“Hand over the keys and tell us when it’s done,” he said.

Muhlbauer agreed.

Schultz said the supervisors had been getting beaten up since the inception of the project and they would get a black eye no matter what. He said in the interest of public safety the project should move forward.

“I think that would be the quickest, most transparent way to get this done and be done with it,” Supervisor Jeri Vogt said.

Blum said the quickest way would be to hire Rey Freeman and Associates.

Muhlbauer said the quickest way would be to approve the site in Charter Oak.

County Auditor Terri Martens said she would need specs of the project to put out an RFP and asked who would provide those.

Schultz said it should be the Crawford County Emergency Management Agency because the money for the project goes through that agency.

“I would say the RFP would have to be approved by Greg Miller’s office before it goes out because… he would have the stuff in there that needs to be in there,” Schultz said.

The discussion paused for other business, which included renewal of the Charter Oak tower site FCC license, and resumed about an hour later.

“I don’t want to slap any volunteers in the face but we’ve been at this for five years and we’re still spinning in the quagmire of politics here and I think it’s just time,” Schultz said. “At the cost of an initial $100,000 – amortize that over a five-year period it really doesn’t amount to much.”

The supervisors again revisited the question of an assessment versus an RFP for the full project.

“Will an assessment just tell us already what we know?” Muhlbauer asked.

“Pretty much,” Schultz said.

Others in the audience, including Denison City Council members John Granzen and Greg Miller, expressed support for the project and reiterated the public safety need for the system.

Blum said that having an assessment done would not be duplicating any work in the future because a contractor hired to manage the project would have to do that work anyway.

He said he just wanted to get the project back on track.

“Going into winter is a time to regroup,” Muhlbauer said. “(It’s) time to figure out who is going to take the lead on this project and get our ducks in a row so by next spring we can develop the budget, (and) hope to hit the ground running.”

The supervisors then voted to move forward with putting out an RFP for a consultant to manage the completion of the project.

Source: https://dbrnews.com/news/lmr-project-in-neutral-supervisors-opt-for-consultant-to-manage-radio-project/article_d3556076-f217-11ea-a125-a77f858744ea.html