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Kern County approves Motorola contract to upgrade public safety radio network

Some supervisors expressed concern that they hadn't been given enough time to read through the contract before voting, however, the vote to approve the contract was unanimous.
Posted: 6:33 PM, Jun 14, 2023
Updated: 2023-06-15 02:15:13-04
kern board of supes meeting

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — On Tuesday, June 13, the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved a $170 million dollar contract with Motorola Solutions to overhaul the county's public radio safety network. The contract is the second largest in county history. The overhaul is a joint project between Kern County and the City of Bakersfield, and the contract has been approved by the Bakersfield City Council as well.

Although the contract was unanimously approved by the board of supervisors, several board members said during that meeting they didn't believe they were given enough time to read over the 6,000-page contract. Additionally, the company that lost the bid said they believed the process of selection was neither fair nor transparent.

"There has been a tremendous amount of work put into this. We've been at this for at least 7 years," said Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.

The process started in 2016 with a vote by the county board of supervisors. Three companies came forward when the county opened their request for qualifications, but one of them withdrew from the process after the county changed the qualifications.

In 2019, a 6 person committee was formed consisting of 6 city and county staff members with assistance from Federal Engineering, a safety communications consulting firm.

"After several years doing a needs assessment, a request for qualifications, and a request for proposals, their decision, under the guidance of Federal Engineering, was Motorola was the best," said Alsop. "Not only best value, but the best fit for this county."

However, Supervisor Jeff Flores voiced concern at the meeting over the limited amount of time the board had to review the 6,000-page document.

"The questions point to the need for me to have more time, because this is a big contract and I have a lot more questions I want to ask of staff," said Flores. "Some of those questions are not developed yet because I have a lot of reading to do."

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez pushed back against the need for more time, saying it was clear that if the committee recommended Motorola, it was the right choice.

"It is completely unclear in my mind what is going to happen in 2 weeks when we return. Are you going to read 6,000 pages in 2 weeks and delve into the world of Motorola?" said Perez.

Flores said he didn't know why there was a rush to approve the contract.

"The more we talk about it, the more I feel crammed. I reject that. I reject it on the time constraint basis," said Flores. "We can move forward with a good public safety contract in 2 weeks, in 3 weeks, or 2 months."

However, Perez pointed out that the contract needed to be approved soon to keep the pricing offered by Motorola.

Executive Director of the Kern County Taxpayers' Association Michael Turnipseed says that he believes Flores had a right to be upset about receiving the contract only days in advance.

"You can't read a 6,000-page document in 4 days. They were absolutely right no. You were making a $177 million dollar project," said Turnipseed.

Motorola's contract was more expensive, and Turnipseed says he wasn't given a reason why they were the better deal when he asked at the meeting.

"Well, of course it's a done deal. 99 percent of the stuff is a done deal, but 99 percent of the stuff isn't $177 million dollars, and it's supposed to be there for 20, 25 years," said Turnipseed. "This is a big investment, and to kind of run it through, sneak it through that way… it breeds distrust."

Alsop says there have been numerous public discussions about the contract, and that because the county has been saving money for this project, they won't go into debt.

"One of the extraordinary things is we are not going into debt and having to pay for it like most other jurisdictions do," said Alsop.


The City of Bakersfield's Technology Services Department says land mobile radio (LMR) systems are used by public safety agencies like police and fire departments for emergency response and inter-agency communications.

These systems offer features like group and private calls, emergency alerts, and encrypted communications.

The city says LMR systems are a reliable alternative to cell or commercial radio systems, which may go offline if public infrastructure is damaged during an emergency or disaster.