The Benton County Supervisors, Benton County Emergency Management, Benton County Sheriff, Benton County Auditor, and Benton County Attorney all met with representatives of Racom. Racom specializes in communication equipment that is used in 911 services for communities. Racom is the company that will be designing a radio system that will work with all of the emergency services throughout the county.
As Racom met with the county leaders, they shared the plan to build the infrastructure, the requirements that they needed to fulfill from their consultant, and things that the county wanted to be tweaked. Back in April, a proposal had been submitted to build the infrastructure for the radio network, the labor costs, tower upgrades, any new towers that might need to be built, generator shelters, and anything else that would be needed to support the equipment on the system. The plan will include all of the hand-held radios used by EMTs, the fire departments, officers as well as the radios worn by the officers.
The county had a July 1 deadline to lock in the price and did not move on it, so an extension was given until September 1. That deadline also passed without action. The cost of supplies has now skyrocketed. Racom has been able to secure a final extension until the end of November with the same proposal cost. Without that extension, the company expects that the cost would rise at least 10%. The company encouraged the county to move along with the contract to save money. If the county waits the costs could be close to a million dollars higher next year.
The county needs 5 towers for coverage and will be using 3 existing towers and saving money by building 2 more towers. The county leases a tower now and the consultant working on the project figures that in 7 or 8 years the county could own the towers rather than continuing to lease and essentially paying 2.5 times the same amount for the towers.
Norway is home to one tower and the company looked at the location but found that the site was too low, and because it is near a cemetery it brings other issues. The Iowa Historic Preservation restricts the ability to raise the tower by more than 30% which would put it at only 130 feet, while the county needs a 200-foot tower. The additional height is necessary so that reception can be made indoors in the cities in the county. Scott Hansen asked if an exception has ever been made or if anyone has ever inquired about getting one. Hansen was told that no one ever has. Hansen will be inquiring about an exemption. After looking more closely at the tower the engineer found that the tower wouldn't be structurally sound enough to hold the equipment needed.
Tracy Seeman asked where they planned to build. The company explained that it depends on the site acquisitions in the project. they will try to find county or municipal land that might work first and if they need to, they might approach a landowner who has the perfect location for the emergency radio towers with a long-term land lease. The company has already found some suggested locations to build and will start with the optimal locations. Locations at this point are fluid until agreements can be made.
The towers must meet all of the legal requirements in height, locations, etc., but have to work geographically to connect as well as give the county coverage. This first step must be nailed down before anything else can be done.
The towers are located in Garrison which will be purchased from Racom, Van Horne, Belle Plaine are home to the three existing towers. Another will need to be located east of Vinton and another in the Norway area. The company said that they work to find and utilize any existing equipment and incorporate it into the new project with the same effect.
The Supervisors did approve the contract with Racom. As noted in the last seconds of the recording by the Benton County Attorney, David Thompson, this is the largest purchase that Benton County has ever made at $7,053,334.26.
The county will also agree to a ten-year maintenance agreement which includes upkeep of the equipment and updating software as needed, as well as monitoring the system 24/7. The cost of this will run $275,000 annually. This adds $2,750,000 to the project, bringing the total to $9,803.334.26 over the next 10 (or 12) years depending on when the maintenance agreement begins.
Project cost: $$7,053,334.26
Maintenance Agreement over 10 years: $2,750,000
Total cost: $9,803.334.26
The estimated lifetime of the radio equipment is 7-8 years according to previous meetings.