JEFFERSON CITY — Stalled first because of financing concerns, a more than $80 million contract to improve the radio system used by Missouri's emergency responders now is facing assertions it was awarded to the wrong bidder.
The contract with Motorola Inc. is being protested by rival Tyco Electronics Ltd., which contends its own proposal is cheaper but was passed over by former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt's administration in a rush to wrap up the radio deal before he left office.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon placed the contract under review shortly after he took office in January. At the time, Nixon's administration said it was chiefly concerned about whether cash-strapped Missouri could afford to finance the $82 million contract.
Those cost concerns could be alleviated if Missouri is able to use federal economic stimulus money for the project — something key lawmakers have expressed a desire to do.
But Tyco Electronics' protest of Missouri's bidding decision raises a new type of cost concern: that Missouri may not be getting as good of a deal as it thought.
Tyco Electronics contends Motorola's project could cost $20 million to $30 million more than the contracted amount, because it claims the company included as optional various items that were supposed to be part of the basic bidding package.
Tyco Electronics wants the state to reverse course and grant it the contact, or to start from scratch and rebid the project.
"We're looking for a fair consideration of our solution," said Victoria Dillon, a spokeswoman for Tyco Electronics, based in Pembroke, Bermuda, but with operational headquarters in Berwyn, Pa.
Steve Gorecki, a spokesman for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola, declined to comment, citing the ongoing state review.
Nixon administration commissioner Kelvin Simmons, who is heading that review, said he is seeking to determine "whether this contract is a legally defensible contract."
Few question the need to replace the 50-year-old radio system used by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which still relies on vacuum tubes in its transmitters.
Under Missouri's plan, the patrol's new system also could be compatible with local communications systems used by police, firefighters, ambulance services and other emergency responders. In some cases, Missouri's public safety personnel currently are unable to talk directly with each other over their radio systems when responding to events affecting various counties or regions.
A 2007 analysis by L. Robert Kimball and Associates, an Ebensburg, Pa.-based architectural and engineering firm, estimated it would cost Missouri between $165 million and $226 million to install up to 150 transmission towers around the state, buy 2,000 patrol radios and 54 dispatch consoles, and make sure the network is connected.
An evaluation committee headed by Kimball and Associates concluded Motorola's was the only bid compliant with the technical specifications laid out by the state. The state on Dec. 31 agreed to a $81.7 million contract with Motorola, subject to Missouri arranging financing within six months.
Tyco Electronics had bid $81.1 million.
In a protest filed with the state in January, Tyco Electronics contended that Motorola's proposal actually would cost the state more than $105 million, because its basic bid did not include certain radio equipment, improvements to existing radio towers or radio coverage inside seven Jefferson City state buildings. Tyco Electronics contends all those items were mandatory under the bid specifications and that it included all of them in its base price.
In a follow-up letter sent earlier this month, Tyco Electronics' attorneys contended Motorola's proposal could cost the state at least $30 million more than the contract price. Attached to the letter was an overview of Motorola's contract submitted to a House appropriations committee detailing an $82 million basic contract and $34 million in optional equipment and services.
Motorola would neither confirm nor deny that the overview came from its company.
Tyco Electronics, which did not produce the overview, said the document confirms its assertions that Motorola's proposal would cost more than its baseline bid.
Part of the review being conducted by Nixon's administration is aimed at determining which items actually are mandatory and which ones are optional under the state's bid specifications.