Commissioners deny request to extend tower project bid date

Heated discussion highlights ongoing rift between court members

A video clip of the discussion of the tower project, clipped from the Gonzales County video of the meeting.

After a very heated discussion, Gonzales County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 on Monday, April 8 to deny a three-week extension request by Motorola to submit a bid on the emergency communications tower project.

The county had originally set a bid opening date of 2 p.m. Monday, April 15 for the project, which is being paid for through a $6,071,588.57 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the General Land Office Mitigation Funding cycle as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Gonzales County initially proposed to add a trunked four-site, four-channel simulcast system with four VHF radio channels at each site. One radio channel at each site would be dedicated to the control channel, leaving three other channels open for voice calls.

The Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office would see the addition of a master site and simulcast prime site along with a co-located radio frequency (RF) site with a four-channel P25 expandable site subsystem (ESS) for future growth as well as a new antenna assembly and a new 300-foot guyed tower.

There would be an additional simulcast remote RF site with four-channel trunked ESS and a new 300-foot guyed tower in Belmont and another simulcast remote RF site with four-channel trunked ESS in Waelder.

The project was advertised for bids in the March 21, 2024 Gonzales Inquirer, but specifications had been changed from a VHF simulcast system to “a P25 Phase 2 standards-based 700/800 MHz trunked radio system to provide greater county-wide communications coverage and message capacity. Components include: 3 new towers, 2 new shelters and 3 emergency backup generators, trunked radio network with geographically- redundant central control systems, interface with, or replacement of existing dispatch console equipment, and redundant IP-based microwave backhaul.”

There are two primary contractors expected to bid on the project — Motorola through their authorized dealer, Victoria Communications Services (VCS), and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) through Dailey Wells. These are the same contractors who were considered when the county was purchasing radios for first responders a few years ago.

A pre-bid conference was held at the GCSO tower site at 202 FM 523, Gonzales, at 11 a.m. March 26.

There is an error in the advertisement as the copy (printed directly from the source material received by the Inquirer) states the project can be found on CivCastUSA’s website under the city/county, which is listed as Fulton/Aransas County instead of being listed under Gonzales/Gonzales County.

During Monday’s meeting, County Judge Pat Davis said Anna Aldridge, the vice president and senior project manager for Hanson Professional Services, the engineering firm overseeing the project, had asked for a three-week extension of the bid as Motorola had indicated that “due to the complexity of this RFP and the amount of civil work involved.” He said Aldridge had indicated bid extensions are not uncommon and are typically granted in most bid processes to make sure contractors are able to comply with bidding requirements and to make sure the process does generate competitive bids.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin La Fleur said he didn’t understand why Motorola needed an extension and was requesting one very early in the process.

“When we were fixing the RFP deal up, before it even came out they were asking for an extension,” La  Fleur said. “They were asking for an extension before we ever went out for bids or right there at the same time. It’s like I’m telling you, ‘I’m want this job done in a month,’ and before you ever get started, they’re telling you, ‘I’m going to need a month more.’”

“Some of the stuff that was said (by Motorola representatives) is that the changes (made to the RFP by commissioners) would benefit one company over another,” Davis replied. “According to the people I’ve talked to, it does.”


“That RFP that Anna pasted and printed to us was a Motorola spreadsheet,” La Fleur said. “The specs she came out with were strictly Motorola. That’s why we changed it. All I’m saying is that there was changes for both to where it was a 700/800 deal. Anna’s original deal had simulcast in it.”

“Because the initial deal started out as Motorola until you got involved and LCRA came in on it,” Davis said. “I think your RFP should give the ability for any company that wants to bid on it and if they need an extension, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to allow that extension. It’s really funny that this all started out as one deal, and when LCRA came in on it, everything was benefitting them.”

Davis said he went to the pre-bid conference and “it was just nothing but LCRA. Very few of anybody else out there. It’s obvious that it’s one sided. (Motorola) were there, but it is obvious that everything has been decided already to benefit one company than the other.”

La Fleur said he, Precinct 1 Commissioner Dell Whiddon and Precinct 2 Commissioner Donnie Brzozowski changed bid specs because “we’re sitting here trying to get the best bang for our buck. We went out for bids.”

Davis also brought out a stack of emails he said he had received from county officials in Comal and Kerr counties that indicated La Fleur’s son, Justin La Fleur — who serves on the Nixon City Council — was lobbying to have those counties consider purchasing systems from LCRA and/or Dailey Wells instead of Motorola.
Copies of the emails obtained by the Inquirer show they were sent by Justin La Fleur to Comal County Commissioner Jen Crownover and Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly, with Crownover forwarding her email to Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds for help responding to the younger La Fleur.

“I can go back to when we started incept on this, and what blows my mind is that we are supposed to be concerned about Gonzales County, but this initially started as the system what it was, and then you and your son got involved in it and things changed,” Davis said. “It blows my mind that I have emails from other counties, including Comal and Kerr County … and when I am told that you and your son are advocating for the LCRA system over there and I don’t understand why you are worried about another county other than just Gonzales.”

“You didn’t include Wilson County because I also talked to them over there,” La Fleur responded. “I was shopping and there is a difference between shopping and just going with what one person says.”

Brzozowski defended La Fleur, stating he was “gathering information to help us and I appreciate that intent, because I don’t understand a lot of this stuff and I don’t think a lot of people understand this high-tech stuff.”

Davis also said neither he nor Precinct 4 Commissione Collie Boatright get included in a lot of communications and information that is exchanged between La Fleur, Whiddon and Brzozowski and it looks like they are making decisions on their own without including their colleagues.

“I think Boatright and I have been left out a lot. I didn’t say anything when you changed all the RFPs and just let everything roll as it is, but it’s obvious when I get emails from people where precincts 1, 2 and 3 have already talked about it, but (Boatright) knows nothing about it and I know nothing about it,” Davis said.

Davis produced an email between Carly Russell, the road and bridge secretary for Precincts 1, 2 and 3, and Aldridge — a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer through a Texas Open Records Act request.

In the email, Aldridge said she is working on answers to contractor questions about the project asked Russell, “Regarding a possible extension, it’s my understanding that you’ve spoken with the Commissioners for Precincts 1, 2 & 3 and they’re not in favor of extending the bid date? I’m hoping to get an answer our soon.”

Russell’s email reply states, “No ma’am I spoke to them regarding it and then called you to get the clarification on why they were needing the extension. How does Judge Davis feel about getting the extension?”

“Nobody has talked to me about anything. Carly hasn’t said anything. You do what you want to, I know that you’re going to do what you want,” Davis said.

Brzozowski responded that Russell is the secretary for he, Whiddon and La Fleur and that Boatright was given the opportunity to have her work for him as well, but he refused.

“The day we hired a secretary, he told us he didn’t need a secretary and didn’t want to be involved,” Brzozowski said.

“At the time, I did not need a secretary because I am in Nixon every day and not in Gonzales,” Boatright said.

“So we didn’t exclude you, did we?” Brzozowski asked.

“I am excluded from the communication. I don’t get cc’ed on email. Were all together in the same boat but I’m in a different location. I don’t need the secretary but I need to communication to be included in the loop,” Boatright said.

“I’m confused. You want to be part of the group but you don’t want to have a secretary?” Brzozowski asked.

“The flow of the information needs to be amongst all of the court,” Boatright said.

“Then you need to contribute a little cash towards the secretary so you can get some,” Brzozowski said.”

“I don’t need a secretary. I don’t want her to work for me. I just want to be included in the information and have some communication. That’s what our problem has always been — a communication issue.”

Davis also told the court that Hanson had recommended putting together a hybrid system that would include VHF as well as 700/800 and that Sheriff Keith Schmidt had told the court “he would be bulletproof if he had both of those systems. One system goes down, you still have the other system.”

The judge also decried that he believed Gonzales County would be giving “a somewhat state entity, LCRA, an $8 million project that they’re going to come in and have these four towers and it’s going to strengthen their radio system ungodly. They’re going to bank off Gonzales taxpayer dollars because all these radios they have on it, 35,000 or 40,000, and we’re still going to have to pay them $20 per month per radio.

“We’re going to give them an $8 million system and then we’re at liberty to them,” Davis added. “We’re at their mercy if say a little while from now they’re going to go to $25 per radio per month. I don’t know how many radios we have, but divide that by $8 million and you get 160 years. We should have free radio because everyone who comes through here is going to use that system and (LCRA) is going to get paid for it and what does the county get?”

Brzozowski said Motorola would “charge the dickens out of us for maintenance” on a Motorola-built system, to which Davis said the maintenance fee could be whatever the county decided it wanted to pay for maintenance.

He noted that “we’ve had a system for 32 years in place and didn’t pay for any maintenance except to put a couple of repeaters on it and it worked just fine. It’s just outdated.”

Brzozowski later made a motion not to extend the bid date and he, Whiddon and La Fleur voted in favor of that motion. Boatright and Davis voted against the motion to keep the bid date the same.