10/22/08 — $9M loan for new system approved

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$9M loan for new system approved

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 22, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County's plan to borrow up to $9.7 million for a new emergency communications system has been approved by the Local Government Commission, clearing the way for the county to proceed with the project.

County Manager Lee Smith announced the approval Tuesday morning during the commissioners' mid-month session.

In the package approved by the Local Government Commission, the county plans to borrow up to $9.7 million from RBC Centura to finance the countywide system.

The project would be financed over a 10-year period at a 3.88 percent interest rate -- the lowest of the four proposals received.

Davenport & Company, a Richmond, Va.-based investment company, was hired by the county to draft, distribute and receive bids from financial institutions interested in financing the project.

Since much of the equipment needed for the project can be obtained under state contract, the county can "hit the ground running" Smith told commissioners.

"We are moving from an analog world to a digital world," he said. "It is mandated by the federal government. We are trying to get the equipment the federal government is requiring five, 10, 15 years out and that is what we looked at.

"I think we are going to be one of the first in the country, one of three, so I think we are moving forward and are ahead of the game."

The new high-frequency radio system will replace an older, less-powerful one.

Board Chairman Bud Gray said $9.7 million "sounds like a lot of money" for a radio system, but pointed out that about $5 million will be used to purchase radios for every fire department, law enforcement agency and rescue squad in the county.

The number of radios per fire department will be based on the number of trucks each department has. Departments that want more radios can buy them and use the discount that the county expects to receive by buying in bulk.

"This is a countywide project," Smith said. "I would challenge you to go find a countywide communications system in the state where every city, every organization came together for one system to buy a standard system. It has taken a long time, several years. We can talk with anybody in the state."

The system includes the purchase of between 1,500 to 1,600 radios, two towers -- one to be built in Mount Olive and the other in Grantham -- and buildings to house the equipment, computers and other "back-room equipment."

Some bids could be awarded as early as November or December, with the bulk of the work getting under way by spring.

Commissioner John Bell asked Smith to contact state probation and parole officials in Raleigh so they can "come onboard," as well.

"They are out there just like police," said Bell, a retired parole and probation officer.

"We will make sure somebody from emergency services does that," Smith said.