A radio tower. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a 10-year contract with Motorola Solutions Inc. Monday for a $51 million public safety radio modernization program.

The contract will help the city switch its first responders’ communication system from analog to digital technology and replace the old radios, officials said.

According to the city’s Department of Information Technology, radio systems must be compatible with regional partners, including San Diego County government, the port authority, military, local hospitals and universities.

The $51 million will cover radio hardware, accessories, warranty and maintenance support, as well as training options.

The project will be carried out in two phases: For fiscal year 2022, the city will replace 5,000 portable radios for $28.5 million. For fiscal year 2023, the city will upgrade mobile radios for $14 million. The remaining $8.5 million will be spent on accessories, repairs, training and future enhancements, officials said.

On Aug. 2, the council authorized several priority capital needs, including $56.4 million of existing and future bonds necessary to complete the Public Safety Radio Modernization Project.

IT department officials said city dispatchers receive 20,000 9-1-1 calls every week. The city of San Diego maintains a network of mountain-top radio towers, providing the first line of communication between first responders and the public.

While all council members said they supported an upgraded communications system for first responders, several voiced concern over whether Motorola’s workforce featured enough women and people of color, while others took issue with the contract’s financing plan.

“We have a really big city, and doing business with us is a privilege,” said Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera.

He added that contractors should strive to make sure their workforce is as diverse as possible and present that information to the city before council members vote on projects.

“I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with our goals not being met on this front,” he said.

Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert said it would be great to find lower-cost financing for future projects but thanked the IT department’s Jonathan Behnke and his team for a competitive bid process. Von Wilpert added that she was glad there are protections for the city, including contract termination if Motorola doesn’t perform as it should.

Councilman Raul Campillo said the project amount is actually $5 million lower than initially planned, and also features $3 million in related savings.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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