Politics & Government

South Sound 911 buys high-end system

South Sound 911 has purchased a $1.1 million voice-recording system for its emergency dispatch operations, rejecting several less-expensive proposals.

Evaluators from the agency’s fire and dispatch centers scored WesTek Marketing of North Bend first among eight proposals at meeting the agency’s requirements.

WesTek’s proposal was $917,757 more than the least-expensive proposal from Texas-based Revcord. Westek’s offer was second-highest, $613,675 less than the most-expensive proposal from Motorola.

The recording system will handle all of South Sound 911’s radio and phone communications, including calls to dispatch centers. South Sound 911 is the agency working to build a seamless emergency communications system in Pierce County. Voters raised their own taxes two years ago to form the agency.

Andrew Neiditz, executive director of South Sound 911, said the Westek selection was determined by which proposal best met the agency’s requirements and needs, not by which was the low bidder. Cost was considered in scoring but was not an overriding factor, he said.

WesTek, which sells a system made by the Stancil Corp. of Santa Ana, Calif., was awarded the contract Oct. 23.

Two of the eight companies were rejected for failing to meet requirements. Another proposal was eliminated and not fully scored because it wasn’t signed.

One company strongly objected to being told it didn’t meet the agency’s requirements.

That proposal, from JEI Inc., was $863,373 less than Westek’s winning submission.

Candie White, sales manager for JEI near Sacramento, Calif., urged South Sound 911 in an email to reconsider “before you waste thousands of dollars more than you need to on a system that will never offer you the direct manufacturer’s support that JEI will.”

White challenged South Sound 911’s assessment that JEI failed to fulfill some technical requirements set forth by the agency.

Neiditz reviewed JEI’s proposal and found it failed on several counts.

The company didn’t offer a server-based system, a point White didn’t contest.

But in an email to The News Tribune, she said her company’s stand-alone system is safer because “the audio is always accessible” even if the network crashes.

Project manager Michael Dobbs said South Sound 911 required a server-based system to protect against failures. The agency’s system will have four servers at different locations.

“What we asked for is a server-based, redundant system so we could mitigate the risks of failures,” said Dobbs, one of five evaluators. “No system is foolproof. We believe we found that balance with what we asked for.”

One of the new servers is already being installed, said Dobbs, a battalion chief with West Pierce Fire & Rescue.

In November 2011, Pierce County voters approved raising the sales tax by a penny on every $10 purchase to help build a cohesive radio network and one or two dispatch centers. The upgraded radio system for emergency responders will comply with new federal standards and replace a patchwork of incompatible radio systems.

Member agencies of South Sound 911 are Pierce County, the city of Tacoma, the city of Lakewood, the city of Fife and West Pierce Fire & Rescue.

County Executive Pat McCarthy, who is chairwoman of the agency’s policy board, said it’s not unusual for a company to complain about not getting selected after making a bid for a contract.

McCarthy said South Sound 911, including those evaluating the proposals, “followed all of the appropriate protocols.”

“They followed due diligence in making sure whomever they picked could meet the qualifications of what we were requesting,” McCarthy said.