Milford officials are hoping to finalize the purchase of a new city government radio communication system before a federal mandate outlawing the use of their current radios takes effect Jan. 1.
City officials said they are currently weighing competing bids from a pair of Delaware companies hoping to provide the new narrowband equipment at an estimated cost to the city more than $200,000.
"Right now, we're still evaluating the proposals and nothing has been awarded at this stage," City Public Works Director Brad Dennehy said. "Obviously, this is something we hope to have in place soon because our radio system is the lifeblood of our various city departments."
Milford's conversion from its current 25 kHz radio system to a 12.5 kHz system is being necessitated by a Federal Communications Commission requirement commonly referred to as the "narrowbanding mandate."
According to the FCC's website, the mandate is intended to reduce congestion on the limited spectrum UHF and VHF frequency bands by requiring all commercial and public safety radio systems to migrate to narrower bandwidths. Non-compliance with the mandate after the Jan. 1 deadline, which was put in place several years ago, could lead to enforcement action, including fines and a loss of FCC licensing.
The bid packages being currently being considered by city officials would include the purchase of 47 mobile radios, 14 portable radios, a 140-foot-tall tower, a three-channel digital trunking system and 11 base/control stations, as well as FCC licensing assistance and GPS tracking with text message capability.
The new radio system would be used by the public works, parks and recreation and billing departments, while the Milford Police Department's radio system, which operates on the state's 800 MHz public safety radio network, would not be affected.
"At one point, we talked about going with no radios at all, and instead using cell phones," City Manager Richard Carmean said. "But we decided that wasn't the smart way to go because, while cell phones are generally reliable, we need to be sure we're able to maintain communications with our people in the field during a catastrophic event."
On Oct. 18, City Council voted to allow Carmean and Dennehy to award a contract to either Magnum Electronics of Dover or Delmarva Communications of New Castle, under the condition that the final deal not exceed $240,000.
Dennehy said this week that a final decision was been delayed, in part, by Hurricane Sandy.
City Councilman Owen Brooks, who chairs the city's public works committee, said he believes the city will be able to meet the Jan. 1 deadline.
"It's got to be done by then for our radio system to work and I've been assured at the last two or three council meetings that it would get done," he said Wednesday. "There were all kinds of questions that had to be answered before [Carmean and Dennehy] could award the contract and I believe they're wrapping that up now."