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BOCC learns more costs go with radios

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The Levy County Commission was taken aback to learn in a budget workshop that the new radio system used by law enforcement and emergency responders will be expensive to maintain.

During a workshop for county constitutional officers Tuesday afternoon, commissioners were told the county's 332 hand-held and mobile units, which already cost $14.95 each per month in user fees are almost out of warranty and an extended warranty will cost $175 per unit per year. That's $58,100 per year on top of the $59,560.80 in user fees.

Brian Kocher, representative for Williams Communications of Tallahassee, said the cost of the new extended warranty/maintenance contract was based on state bid pricing. He said the extended contract would cover any hardware or software failures and maintenance to check radios to ensure they are functioning properly.

The county spent $1.5 million on the 800-megahertz (MHz) radio system for the sheriff's office, emergency management, emergency medical services and the fire departments. The system has also been expanded to the municipal police departments.

"This is on top of the $14.95?" Commissioner Lilly Rooks asked. She said that in discussions on implementing the new radio system the impression was that the $14.95 user fee covered maintenance. "I don't recall any of this coming out during the discussion. I thought that $14.95 covered the radios, maintenance and repairs."

"We might have to go back and listen to the tapes (of the meetings)," Commissioner Danny Stevens said.

Kocher said about 1 percent of the radios can fail in a year and if the commissioners did not approve the extension, they would face paying for each individual service call. He said preventive maintenance costs $65 per unit.

Kocker also said if the commission decided to get the extended service at a later date it would cost $65 per unit for the company to certify the condition of all 332 units, plus the annual maintenance fee of $175 per unit.

"You're going to get us either way," said Commissioner Tony Parker.

"I think you need to come up with a different figure," Rooks said.

"We're talking about equipment that's a year old," Parker said.

"You just can't ask enough questions when you're getting into something," he added.

The commission asked Kocher to provide figures on service call costs versus the extended service contract.

In other budget workshop business, the commissioners

-Asked Supervisor of Elections Connie Asbell to cut her budget proposal from $321,603 for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 to the current year's budget of $287,438.

Asbell said that would be hard as she added a new employee this year. She did agree to not give a 50-cent per hour pay raise to her employees. She said the raise was to make up for overtime worked by the employees that was not always compensated with time off.

-Property Appraiser Francis Akins told the commission that despite having to pay for aerial photography services once provided free by the state, he had cut his budget from it current $1.147 million to $1.132 million.

-The sheriff's budget request has been cut from this year's $11.692 million to $11.492 million.

-Clerk of Court Danny Shipp dropped his budget by 10 percent and did not include any raises in his request.

-County Finance Supervisor Sheila Rees said a request has been made for the state attorney and public defenders offices to cut their budget request. The county provides communications, repairs, utilities, security, maintenance and technology for the offices, she said.