Commissioners discuss using ARPA money for first responder radios


Gonzales County Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Harless will come back before the Commissioners Court in two weeks with a list telling them how many handheld radios the county will need to purchase using money Gonzales County received from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA).

The topic of discussion was brought up by Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin La Fleur, who reminded commissioners they needed to move on purchasing the new radios they have been discussing for the past year.

“We need to get moving on this stuff so we can get this money spent before our next budget comes up,” La Fleur said. “We need to get with the EMS and the fire departments and come up with the number of radios we need. We need a figure so we know how we are going to divvy this money up to our first responders. The quicker we tend to it, the better off we’ll be.”

Harless said he had a list ready that was “probably ready to go before the end of last year” but things have changed and the list will need to be updated.

“I have a good start on it,” Harless said. “We have already done what you are talking about it. The sheriff has purchased some things already (that were on the list). There was a price increase recently and we understand there may be another minor cost increase next month. I can do my due diligence to get you a current, updated list and a cost.”

Harless said his department had decided, in a cost-saving move, that “we were going to purchase the good, high-powered radios for our full-time folks and our part-time law enforcement and try to repurpose what we can to go to the volunteers to try to save some of that money.”

Harless said he would come back to the court on April 25 with a master list of what the county will need in terms of radio as well as a proposal from Motorola for the equipment.

Asked if he had any proposals other than one from Motorola, Harless said he did not. At that point, La Fleur said he had a proposal in hand from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) that would utilize a different radio brand, Harris.

He also stated that the bid would not involve Dailey & Wells, a San Antonio-based radio system company which recently made news last month when a former San Angelo police chief was found guilty of accepting bribes and using his official position to help the company land a $5.7 million vendor contract with the city of San Angelo in return for more than $175,000 in kickbacks for himself and his band.

“Everyone’s jumping on this for dealing with Dailey-Wells,” La Fleur said. “We’re not dealing with Dailey-Wells. Here’s the proposal. They come from LCRA. There’s no Dailey Wells to this.”

“Who’s the carrier?” County Judge Patrick Davis asked.

“I didn’t go into that,” La Fleur answered.

“Well, who supplies the radios?” Davis then asked.

“They’re Harris radios,” La Fleur said.

“Who’s Harris?” Davis responded.

“There’s Harris dealers just like Victoria Communications is a Motorola dealer,” La Fleur said. “You can try to throw the bad dog at Harris all you want. It was all over social media this weekend how commissioners are dealing with some kind of illegal business. What does this say right here? LCRA.”

Davis sought to defuse an argument by telling La Fleur the court can consider the proposal, but “we just haven’t seen it yet. That’s fine. We can get it and put it out there and share it and give it to Jimmy (Harless) and we can look it.”

Harless said he would like to “recontact LCRA and Motorola, give them the new numbers (of radios needed) and then have those numbers ready for the next commissioners court meeting.”

Davis said, “We need a representative from both companies here so if there are questions of either one, they can answer it.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Donnie Brzozowski also asked that both companies bring a sample radio to the court so commissioners can look at what their first responders would be using.

“We’d like to see what they look like so we know what we’re getting,” Brzozowski said.

Harless said he thought they would need about 60 new radios, but said it would depend on what direction the court asks him to take regarding the county’s volunteer fire departments.

“My opinion is that the volunteer firemen and ladies who provide that service don’t need a take home radio,” Harless said. “That can be left at the station when they come to pick up the fire truck or fire apparatus, they can grab one. That would reduce our numbers drastically if we could repurpose some current radios that are dual band or single band with the software capability to take the software, I’d like to do that so we can reduce that cost. I’m trying to be very frugal with that money. We want to make sure that we give them a radio that works, though, because that’s very important.”

LaFleur said the county has money from a grant program still available that can be used to pay for in-car radios so that should not be the focus of the ARPA money.

“Most of that money should be diverted to handhelds, the ARPA money,” La Fleur said. “That way we don’t have to have anyone telling us what we need to spend it on as far as radios go.”