Black & Veatch’s Guidance Lands Client Better Radio Coverage, Technology and Pricing
Rockwall County, Texas, had a problem.
The county's aging first-responder radio system urgently needed to be replaced. With an exploding growth in population — up 111 percent from 2000 to 2015 — the outdated radio system no longer provided the necessary level of coverage. Support from the manufacturer was declining and spare parts were hard to find.
There are five small cities in Rockwall County, with the population spread out over a largely rural area about 30 miles east of Dallas, Texas, across Lake Ray Hubbard. The county radio system was separate from the city of Rockwall, the county seat. Rockwall hosts the emergency service radio communications for the four other cities — Fate, Royse City, Heath and McClendon-Chisholm. This city system, based on older analog technology, was also running on borrowed time, as the manufacturer had announced a schedule of declining support to give users time to replace it.
The county sheriff's office received a single vendor's proposal to build a new radio system for $10 million that would support the county and the five cities. The county realized it did not have the expertise to evaluate the proposal and engaged Black & Veatch to do the evaluation.
The Proposal Fell Short
“We conducted a detailed assessment to identify the needs of the agencies that would use the system — sheriff's office, police, fire, public works — and then poured through the vendor's proposal and concluded that the proposed system would not meet user requirements and the contract should not be awarded as is," said Greg Munchrath, Regional Director for Black & Veatch's telecommunications business.
He said that the sole-source proposal fell short in several ways. The proposed radio coverage throughout the county was inadequate, certain key pieces of equipment were missing, which would have to be added later at additional cost, and the project was overpriced.
As part of the consulting engagement, Black & Veatch “spent quite a bit of time discussing the agencies' collective radio coverage requirements in detail. We developed system alternatives to help the county and participating cities better understand potential system replacement alternatives," Munchrath said. His team, in conjunction with the county and city participants, developed a request for proposals that received two competitive radio system responses.
“Competition in the system procurement process is good for the county. System providers work harder, develop better system proposals and designs, and provide better pricing," Munchrath said. “The system providers compete intensely. It is important to utilize a thorough and objective evaluation process to select the best offering and protect the buyer from potential protests from firms who are not selected.
To evaluate the proposals, Black & Veatch recommended that the county form a committee of representatives from the county government, its purchasing and legal departments, Black & Veatch, and the participating cities.
Both system proposals were evaluated by the committee. The winning vendor offered better guaranteed radio coverage and higher-tier user radios, at $2 million less than the original sole-source proposal.
Throughout implementation, Black & Veatch helped oversee the work, maintain the project schedule and resolved problems. In addition, Black & Veatch set up acceptance testing to ensure the system was installed correctly and functioned properly.
The new radio system provides a single shared radio communications infrastructure that supports the county and all five cities. Each jurisdiction has its own dedicated radio channels, and has radio interoperability channels that provide excellent radio communications between all the users on the new system.
“At the outset, Rockwall County commissioners’ court recognized that the county needed consulting assistance in this important procurement. With the help of Black & Veatch, the county and participating cities did it right," Munchrath said.
Beyond the Rockwall County line, the new system incorporates a robust radio communications interoperability plan that facilitates communications with neighboring counties and municipal neighbors across the lake.
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