Augusta Commission to consider cameras, $12.2 million upgrade of public radio system

A multimillion-dollar public safety item with an uncertain funding source needs approval Tuesday by the Augusta Commission to move forward.

The $12.2 million upgrade of Richmond County’s public safety radio system and the installation of security cameras downtown was proposed last week by a team from Motorola, the city’s current provider, with support from Sheriff Richard Roundtree and Fire Chief Chris James.

Upgrading the decades-old system would provide better radio coverage, video capability and room for expansion, as well as the opportunity for agencies throughout the area to buy onto the system, officials said.

After the Motorola presentation, some commissioners questioned whether the radio upgrades should be put out for bids, and how to pay for them.

“Maybe we can get what we think we need much cheaper. The only way we can find out is by putting it out for bids,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said Monday.

“I’m not against anything that’s going to benefit our policemen and firemen, but where are we getting $10 million?” Commissioner Bill Fennoy asked.

While revenues may be available as other agencies join the system, its annual maintenance charges will be higher than the city presently pays, officials said.

City Administrator Fred Russell said it was unclear if the upgrades were a sole-source item not subject to the bid process.

“The question would be, would it be sole source so it would be compatible with our current system?” Russell said. “How much extra do you pay for compatibility, if any?”

Options to pay for the project include raising property taxes, Russell said, or placing the item on an upcoming SPLOST referendum for voter approval. The city will begin formulating a list of projects to fund using a 1 percent special, local-option sales tax later this month, he said.

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