FORT WAYNE — The Fort Wayne City Council supported paying nearly $10 million for a new emergency radio system despite not knowing exactly where the money will come from to pay for it.
The council supported putting $9.8 million toward a $17 million 911 radio system it will share with Allen County. The costs include nearly $4.3 million for a radio system and $5.6 million for radios.
Pat Roller, city controller, said the city and county are in negotiations over whether some 911 revenue – fees that phone users pay for emergency services – can be used for the radio expense. If not, she said, the city would look at paying cash for the system upgrades and paying for the radios over five or seven years.
She said income taxes or property taxes could be used for those expenses.
Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, abstained from voting on the contract after expressing concerns about its funding, despite saying he supports the project in general.
“I’m concerned with voting for $10 million in spending without knowing how it’s going to be done,” he said.
All other council members voted in support of the contract. A final vote is scheduled for next week.
Allen County officials are hoping to pay cash for their entire portion of the contract in an effort to get an undisclosed discount from Motorola.
County Councilman Roy Buskirk, R-at large, said earlier in the day that the County Council needs to know before it meets Thursday how the city plans to pay for its portion and what, if any, savings would be realized by paying cash.
Dave Eischens, Motorola’s government director, was reluctant to disclose discount information until the agreement is finalized.
Buskirk said, “It’s hard for me to believe that a company like Motorola does not have a standard policy on cash discounts. Let’s not play games. All we need is a percentage; we can do the math.”
Roller said the city has decided to at least pay for all of the radio system costs immediately to alleviate any concerns about the county getting a discount on its purchase.
County Councilman Larry Brown, R-4th, told the City Council there is another unknown cost for the project: The new radio system will need a new home, as there is not enough space for it in the current 911 operations center in the basement of the Rousseau Centre, formerly the City-County Building.
Brown said this expense could cost between $500,000 and $1.5 million and would likely require using most of the surplus 911 revenue.
Also Tuesday, the City Council unanimously supported bills creating rules on nepotism and conflicts of interest for city officials.
The rules, sponsored by Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, take portions of a new state law – House Bill 1005 – and make them part of city code as well.
The law, which takes effect July 1, prohibits government employees from running for office in the government in which they are employed, such as police officers and firefighters running for City Council.
It also includes provisions barring government employees from working for their relatives and requiring disclosure of conflicts of interest.
Communities that don’t adopt these policies face having their budgets rejected by the state. Communities can adopt stricter regulations, but Fort Wayne chose not to do so at this time.
Vivian Sade of the Journal Gazette contributed to this report.