City approves 800 trunking system upgrade
SALISBURY — Salisbury City Council approved a $2.5 million radio system upgrade Wednesday that allows 911 consolidation to move forward.
Council tabled the issue of the 800 trunking system at its regular meeting last week. It then called a special meeting to continue discussion and hold a vote before the end of the year.
“We were reluctant to approve $2.5 million that was unbudgeted without further discussion,” said Councilwoman Maggie Blackwell.
The city had expected to consider the project in next year’s budget talks. City staff presented it this month, though, because 911 consolidation is at a standstill without the upgrade.
Between the two meetings, Blackwell and Councilman Brian Miller met with city staff members. She said Wednesday that they now have a better understanding of the upgrade and felt comfortable voting for it.
“The bottom line is we are not having to impact our budget as a result of the upgrade,” Miller said, “which is the primary thing I was trying to understand at the last council meeting.”
Consolidating 911 dispatch services with the county will save Salisbury about $500,000 each year, he said. Debt service for the 800 trunking system will be about $400,000 per year, but the city also will be retiring about $220,000 a year in existing debt.
That means Salisbury will make payments of $180,000 to $190,000 annually for debt service, leaving more than $300,000 in savings for the city.
Miller and Blackwell said Salisbury-Rowan Utilities can share some of the cost, but it’s not clear how much.
The upgrade to the 800 trunking system, which provides an emergency communications network for the county and city, is a necessary step toward a new consolidated 911 telecommunications center with the county.
Rowan County must wait for the upgrade to buy additional 911 dispatch consoles, city officials have said, and the county’s new satellites won’t work without it.
Also, Motorola will no longer support the city’s analog equipment with parts or service, Miller said.
“Whether or not the upgrade was necessary was never in question,” he said. “We can’t make the system we’ve got work any longer.”
Miller made the motion to award a $2.5 million sole source contract — meaning no bids were taken — to Motorola Solutions Inc. and amend the budget accordingly. Blackwell seconded.
The council members voted 4-0 to approve the upgrade at the end of the brief special meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Susan Kluttz did not attend.
Kluttz, a longtime Salisbury mayor, was recently appointed to a cabinet position by Gov.-elect Pat McCrory.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.