Knox County E-911 board delays vote on radio system

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – After months of debate, a vote to replace an outdated emergency radio broadcasting system has been delayed.

The Knox County E-911 board met Friday to vote on a multi-million dollar overhaul to the emergency radio equipment with Harris Communications.

The vote was delayed in February after accusations of Sunshine Law Violations.

Previous story: Revelations from Knox County E-911 Board emails include possible Sunshine violations, accusations against Rural/Metro

At the meeting, Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones said the accusations of Sunshine Law violation laws were unjust, saying he is required to talk to the Knoxville Police Department chief daily for public safety.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said she would like to focus the meeting back on the vote for the contract. She said she was prepared to vote and asked Jones why he felt the contract with Harris Communications was not ideal.

Sheriff Jones said nothing was missing in the Harris contract, but that he felt he did not have input in the process of choosing Harris.

A representative with Harris Communications said the company only has one case of ongoing litigation in Las Vegas, but doesn’t think the issue would affect Knox County.

The board discussed joining the state system rather than creating a new radio system. The Harris Communications representative said Knox County could still join the state system under their system.

The board agreed that joining a state network would be more cost effective, but said a lot of outdated equipment would still need to be replaced.

The representative from Harris Communications said the end decision came down to control. If Knox County has their own system, they have control, if they’re on a state network they do not.

Mayor Rogero outlined three options for the board: approve the Harris Communications contract, start over on the bids or bring in the state to talk about expenses.

Knox County Major Burchett seconded a motion to delay the vote. Burchett said the matter is an issue of public safety and the board needs to slow down.

“You’re also talking about a 9 million dollar contract and you’re talking about public trust,” he said.

Rogero added that the contract with Harris Communication is still not off the table.

“Is it better to build out our own system like the Harris contract would do and then join the valley system or is there a better alternative that saves us money and still provides quality service?” she asked.

The board unanimously decided to delay the vote, bringing back on the agenda at a board meeting on April 15. Rogero requested a state representative be present to talk about the pros and cons of joining the state system.

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