Commissioners agree to buy emergency radio system — but how do they pay for it?

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Deputy 911 Director Ken McCorrison demonstrates a digital radio system for county commissioners.

Financing for a massive radio purchase was the focal point of Monday’s work session of the Warren County Commissioners.

The commissioners agreed last week to buy the equipment — including 374 radios — and share it with entities including local fire and police departments.

The price tag for the purchase comes to $1.8 million.

The P25 system, when operational, will allow emergency responders — police, fire, ambulance — to communicate with one another directly, something that is not possible with the existing system.

But the commissioners have to figure out how to pay for it.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said that the financing offer from Motorola expires before the next public meeting when action could be taken.

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston suggested that the company be encouraged to push back the deadline in order to give the commissioners more time.

Kafferlin said that he doesn’t “have a problem agreeing to it now” because there is no cancellation fee.

He said that they could still seek financing through the USDA or a local bank which he said would be “better” but noted that it “shouldn’t hold up the contract” since the first payment would be until late next year.

“Motorola is not as generous as the county,” Commissioner Cindy Morrison said. “We give interest free loans,” referencing the loan the county gave to the Warren County Development Association for the purchase of the PNC Building.

Kafferlin said he might ask for a special meeting to consider the financing proposal on the table if the deadline could not be extended.

Eggleston said Kafferlin should “keep pressuring them to extend that deadline.”

“(You) would think they could give it to us interest free,” Morrison said. “They’re making a lot of money.”

Eggleston said he wasn’t sure anyone would do that.

“We did,” Morrison said.

“We’re not a business,” Kafferlin responded.