Board OKs $10.7 million contract to upgrade 911 system

WOODSTOCK – The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors moved forward Thursday on a $10.7 million project to replace the local emergency communications system.


The board voted 6-0 to authorize county officials to proceed and execute the contract that includes $9.17 million for the equipment and installation by Motorola, $335,000 for project management services provided by Mission Critical Partners, and a contingency of $1.2 million to cover unforeseen expenses.


The $9.17 million buys the county several additional transmission towers, portable radios and pagers for first responders, new equipment for the emergency communications center and other amenities. Supervisors intend to relocate the center into space in the planned Sheriff’s Office complex on county owned land on North Main Street near the government center. The county received bids this week for the complex, with the lowest offer coming in at just over $8 million.


The plan for the replacement of the emergency communications center calls for Motorola to install additional towers and the new system, then connect and test the equipment. Motorola then would shut down the old system and remove unnecessary towers, officials have explained.


Board members had time to review the contract since receiving the agreement last month, Chairman Conrad Helsley said.


Director of Emergency Communications R. Jason Malloy responded to questions from supervisors about the project. District 3 Supervisor Richard Walker commented that Winchester finalized its new communications system in 2016 and Prince William County two years earlier. Walker asked if Mission Critical Partners or if county officials had talked to anyone in those localities about their experience in transitioning to new systems. Malloy, whose wife, Erin Elrod, serves as director of emergency communications for Winchester, said they have talked about the subject.


“There’s always going to be different nuances with different systems,” Malloy said. “It’s a little bit harder to compare what they’ve gone through to what we’re going through because Winchester is 9.2 square miles.


“They have two towers, one that’s on the Timbrook building on Piccadilly Street and one a little bit further out of the city so we’re in a much, much larger jurisdiction,” Malloy added. “Prince William’s even different still because it’s largely flat whereas we have a topography of mountain lines, the valley.”


The other jurisdictions reported fairly smooth transitions with their systems, Malloy said.


“There’s always gonna be hiccups here and there,” Malloy added.


Malloy, who works as a volunteer firefighter for Winchester, said the city’s new system works much better than its predecessor.


The contract mentions funding possibilities from state or federal sources, Walker noted. However, Malloy said they have not found any such funding opportunities. Malloy said they continue to look for funds but any money likely would not make a big dent in the total project cost.


Walker advised that the county could see its real estate tax rate increase from 1.5 cents to 3 cents in order to pay off the debt owed on the project.


Helsley and Walker, along with Vice Chairman John R. “Dick” Neese, and Supervisors Steve Baker, Dennis Morris and Karl Roulston attended the meeting.