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Lee Commission OKs radio, jail security systems

— Lee County Commissioners took care of some unfinished pre-Christmas business during a special called meeting today.

In addition to moving forward with required votes to get the ball rolling on the installation of a countywide 800-megahertz emergency radio system, the commission refused to reconsider its approval of a $45,852 bid request for an overhaul of what Lee Sheriff's Office officials called an "antiquated" camera security system at the Lee County Jail.

The non-action by the board, which came after Lee Sheriff Reggie Rachals said he'd been contacted by other vendors who said they could do the job less expensively after Safe Security Inc.'s bid was announced, paved the way for the system to be installed. Security consultant Joe Woody said at the commission's Dec. 13 meeting the company was ready to start installing the system at the beginning of the new year and would need "about a month" to finish the job.

"We're glad to get this funding for the system upgrade," LSO Jail Administrator Maj. Sandra Pressley-Fordham said after today's called meeting.

"This is something that's definitely needed; we haven't had a real upgrade since we moved into the facility on Dec. 27, 1999."

Assistant Jail Administrator Capt. Jennifer Dunbar said the new security system would utilize the "most current" technology.

"We can grow with this system," she said. "With the way technology changes so rapidly, I think that's very important."

Commissioner Rick Muggridge suggested LSO officials go through an RFP (request for proposal) process on future major purchases so that there is no question about the transparency of the process.

"Far be it from me to tell the sheriff's office how to do things," Muggridge said. "But one of the things I asked you last week (during the commission meeting) is if you sent out an RFP, which would have specifically listed the things you expected from vendors. It appears you did not do that.

"A constitutionally elected officer has the authority to spend the money in his budget the way he sees fit, but in the future I would recommend sending out an RFP for major purchases so that you can be assured you're getting your money's worth. You can be assured that if there's any item that strengthens public safety in this community, you're going to find five votes of support with this board."

The County Commission requires an RFP for any purchase of more than $10,000.

Commissioners unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Albany that will allow Lee County to link with a communications tower owned by the city, OK'd a purchase/installation/training agreement with Motorola for radio system equipment, and approved an agreement that will allow for a cell tower to be constructed on county-owned land.

County Administrator Tony Massey gave Motorola representatives a down payment check for a fourth of the $1.2 million the company will receive for the system.

"This is the culmination of several months of good-faith negotiations," Massey said. "We are now ready to enter a new phase of communications in Lee County."

Muggridge praised Albany officials for their part in the system upgrade.

"I'd like to publicly express my thanks to the city of Albany and their City Commission for their support in this matter," he said. "This is a great step toward regionalism and the betterment of our community."

Also at the meeting, the Commission approved a wellness program that is to be implemented through CHN, OK'd insurance premiums for employees (those who do not participate in the wellness program will pay $18.50 per paycheck more than participants) and approved the purchase of two parcels of land needed to move the Westover Road Extension project forward.

Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander said the purchases included 7 acres and two easements (at a cost of $43,212) and .2 acres ($1,338), both of which will be paid for utilizing special-purpose local-option sales tax funds.

The commission also approved a request by the local 4-H shotgun team, which has won two state championships, to allow the team to practice on Sundays during certain hours and to move to a new location on Jordan Road.