HomeSuburbanSuburban NewsControversy over radio vendors in Sayreville continues

Controversy over radio vendors in Sayreville continues

By Jacqueline Durett

 SAYREVILLE — The controversy over the emergency radio purchase in Sayreville is far from over, even though a vendor has been selected and the spending has been approved.

 At the July 25 council meeting, Fire Chief Vincent Waranowicz shared some news that was surprising to many on the council.

He said during a recent meeting with representatives from Harris, the brand chosen for the radios, that he realized the specifications that the vendor bids were based on for the radios were wrong both in terms of the quantity and in the type of radio for what the fire and first aid departments need.

He said neither he nor anyone from first aid had viewed the specs before the purchase was approved, and it contains too few radios as well as an intent to purchase single-band units instead of multiband. Single-band units would only allow fire and first aid to to communicate with each other within the borough, not with responders from other municipalities during mutual aid situations.

 Councilwoman Victoria Kilpatrick was incredulous at learning this information and questioned what role, if any, Waranowicz, who had been vocal in previous meetings about choosing vendor Motorola over Harris, played in the process.

 Waranowicz said he was involved to some degree, but not with determining what radios were the right radios for the first responders; he said he was not invited to meetings on the issue.

 “If I didn’t get asked, it’s not my fault,” he said.

 Kilpatrick and Waranowicz argued about the issue, but ultimately she and Councilwoman Mary Novak said they wanted to equip the first responders with what they needed. Novak said it was the police department that provided the information for the specs.

 Waranowicz asked if the approval could be extended to the radios that the first responders need.

“What they need to function and be safe, I’m willing to do,” Kilpatrick said, adding, however, that it wasn’t fair how much she and other council members were berated during the approval process.

“You’re right. It’s not fair. And it’s not fair to me, I’m not getting the radio system I want, but you’ll throw around everything else like it’s political game,” Waranowicz said.

Kilpatrick disagreed that it was political.

Novak said a meeting with all involved parties was required to determine exactly what was needed and how best to proceed.

The borough has been in a process to purchase emergency radios for first responders for months. Democrats and Republicans maintained party lines on the vendor—with Democrats wanting the lower-cost Harris, who they said also had some enhancements they preferred.

Republicans, meanwhile, aligned with the first responders, who wanted Motorola. V-COMM, the borough’s consulting firm for the project, also recommended Motorola.

Ultimately, Harris had the votes to be chosen, and the borough approved to spend $2.3 million, $2.19 million of that through bonding.

Waranowicz said at the July 25 meeting, however, that this issue would have come up regardless of which vendor had been chosen for the project.

Prior to the discussion on the radios, Business Administrator Dan Frankel notified the council at the meeting that V-COMM had submitted an invoice for an additional $14,000 for their work on the project, which was initially contracted for $31,000. Council members disagreed with whether the consulting firm should be paid the additional money.

 “They did the work; we should pay them,” Rittenhouse said.

 Novak pointed out that the council should have been notified of the additional charges before additional work. Council President Daniel Buchanan and Kilpatrick said they didn’t feel the consulting firm did any work over and above the scope of the agreed-upon contract.

 Novak recommended the invoice issue be turned over to the borough attorney to explore options.

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