The Johns Creek City Council on Monday voted unanimously to opt out of an intergovernmental operating agreement among North Fulton cities to create a new public safety radio system.
See below: Sandy Springs saw this as a possibility.
The $16 million digital radio system is planned as a replacement for Fulton County's ailing system, which is 20-years-old and described as "failing."
Under the terms of the new system agreement, Johns Creek would have paid more than $2 million for initial capitalization, not including yearly maintenance costs, etc. Sandy Springs, along with Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton would pay the same amount initially.
Chief among the Johns Creek council's complaints was a feeling that the other cities had rushed to an agreement based upon the vendor's promise of a discount if a contract was signed in a certain amount of time.
The cities chose Motorola without going through a bidding process, which "should have been more open," said Johns Creek's City Manager John Kachmar.
"We've questioned the process and not been given an assurance that the process wasn't handled less than stellar," said Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker. He later added that he felt like the sister cities were well-intended, but disagreed with their process.
Additionally, Fulton County itself is working on a new system, having issued a request for bid proposals due Jan. 30.
"They're doing what they need to do," Kachmar said.
Council members expressed concern that Johns Creek taxpayers would therefore be funding two new systems if the council signed an agreement – Fulton County's and North Fulton County's.
"Why burden the taxpayers with another system," said council member Brad Raffensperger.
The council agreed to explore other options, which could include using the new system put in place by Fulton County, doing their own study and coming up with an individual plan, or partnering with neighboring counties like Gwinnett and Forsyth, which is currently Johns Creek's back-up system.
Sandy Springs will manage the monthly billing of the system. In December, Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult indicated that Johns Creek opting out of the partnership was a possiblility.
“It would change the numbers but it would not change the intergovernmental agreement with four instead of five,” Sult said. “At the end of the day, it’s a benefit for all participats in the IGA. It’s not a metter of should we do this or not. This provides a cost savings for everyone that is participating.”
In 2011, Sult explained his concern about a breakdown in communications among first responders from different jurisdictions.
He said, “If anybody calls us for assistance we will respond and help them. We all cooperate with each other, but if we can’t talk to each other, that really hurts our ability to coordinate resources.”
Since Johns Creek rejected the IGA, the other four cities will have to go back and approve a modified version of both the IGA and the cost-sharing document. Chief Sult expected Sandy Springs City Council approval by the end of January.
James Drinkard, assistant city administrator for Alpharetta, said the vote on the original IGA was linked to a price, or cost.
"That cost was based on participation by all of the cities," Drinkard said. "Johns Creek deciding not to participate changes that cost, which means we have to bring everything back to council."
Jason Wright, communications manager for Milton said all the cities are going to have to do that. Milton probably will have a special meeting in which the terms of the IGA are slightly modified for four of the five cities in North Fulton – Roswell, Alpharetta, Milton and Sandy Springs.
Wright said the costs Johns Creek would have paid will be absorbed by the other cities.
Bob Pepalis and Adrianne Murchison contributed to this article.