During the Nov. 4 meeting of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners, the commission heard a presentation and request from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office asking for approval for funding and to move ahead with bids for security system upgrades to the jail and the courthouse.
According to DSCO Major Greg Rowan, the security system upgrades have been a subject of discussion since January of 2021 when the commissioners approved approximately $1.5 million for the sheriff’s office to hire a security system consultant and begin pricing bids for an upgrade to the current security system.
“It’s been going on for a little while now,” Rowan said to the board during his presentation. “[We’ve] been doing work in the background and we’re finally to the point of requesting you all to approve to make this happen.”
According to the packet of information included with the meeting’s agenda, the current security and control system is installed and maintained by Accurate Control and has been in place since about 2007 at the Law Enforcement Center and the jail and since 2011 at the Government Center. Due to the equipment being old and outdated, it is becoming more and more obsolete and harder to maintain.
Rowan said that, since the board approved the funding for the project to begin in January, the DCSO has hired a consultant from Tanner and Hoskins Consultants, put together a list of specifications the system would need to include, and released an RFP in July which received three different proposals from local companies.
“We went through the normal procedures, had a group of folks here internally that got together and did the scoring with the different potential vendors; we all did our independent voting and decided on Southwestern Communications (SWC) as being the preferred recommendation,” Rowan said. “They scored the highest; all of them were close but SWC seemed to be a better total package.”
According to Rowan’s presentation, the proposed security upgrades would include testing the current equipment, running new wiring, installation of the latest available version of all equipment and software, testing and quality control, training staff on the new equipment and software, and provision of a comprehensive support, repair and maintenance agreement.
Rowan added that, once they really started looking at what holes the jail and courthouse have in their current security systems, the DCSO added a few more security upgrades to the bid, including 15 new secure doors, additional cameras both indoor and outdoor, new camera client stations in the courthouse, cameras in the Butler Building where the old jail used to sit, cameras in the old historic courthouse, cameras in the K-9 building and cameras in the courthouse elevators.
According to Rowan, the bids from the three companies, including the one that is being recommended to the board, are above the $1.5 million target price approved in January due to inflation and supply availability. The total prices presented to the board include the maintenance contract, but he said that the maintenance costs would be spread out over a five-year span of time.
Commissioner Chris Gaines questioned during the presentation whether or not the supply chain issues will affect the ability to acquire the resources needed to complete the project. According to Fred Tanner, the consultant hired by the DCSO, the supply shortages and chain issues shouldn’t present a problem.
“The computer chips are the biggest issue, there’s two companies in the world both in Asia that are manufacturing these chips… they are doing a better job of manufacturing these… so we anticipate this one to be on time and not be held up by manufacturers,” Tanner said. “The camera systems are ready to go.”
Gaines also questioned Tanner about whether there will be any downtime during installation when the current security system is offline. Tanner said that, while there will be certain amounts of time when it is offline, it won’t be off for the whole time.
“You’ll have areas that have to cut the wires off and remove the old equipment, so that’s part of the phasing,” Tanner said. “You may have one pod of the housing unit that has to go down and go on keys for life safety reasons, but typically those are over the weekend or three or four days downtime; we take it down and allow them to work at night and overtime to finish it.”
Tanner said that, once the contract is awarded, the first thing they’ll do is bring the company in to talk about scheduling, phasing and what area to renovate first. He added that they’ve specified wanting the project to be completed in 270 days, so that will also be discussed with the company.
Commissioner Sharon Fausett asked Tanner what the expected longevity of the new equipment will be once it is installed. He said that part of the contract specifies that the system will be the very latest in technology at time of installation, so the hope is that it could last up to 15 to 20 years with upgrades.
If the commission approves the bid by SWC, the total cost of the project will be $2,279,339.40. Included in that total is the service and maintenance support contract, which will account for $203,930 of the total and can be paid over a period of five years.
Because of this, Rowan told the board that the DCSO is requesting the board to accept the offers received and approve the contract with SWC for the project, for a total of $2,075,409.40. This would include the $1,405,500 previously approved by the board plus an extra $669,909.40 from the county’s general fund balance, to be reimbursed by the SPLOST 7 funds approved for the upgrade.
The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will vote to approve or deny the DCSO’s request during the board’s next voting session on Nov. 18.