Palatine Township Elementary District 15 officials cited input from police and fire departments in specifically seeking Motorola Solutions Inc.'s products to update a two-way radio communications system, but a competitor now claims the decision wasted taxpayers' money.
District 15 board members last week approved paying $242,399 to Bridgeview-based United Radio Communications for 503 digital radios, 100 chargers and other equipment manufactured by Motorola.
Officials say the digital system is needed to replace roughly 8-year-old Motorola analog radios that have poor reception in certain areas and battery problems.
Upgrading from analog to digital will boost the two-way radio signal quality and reliability for employees who need them, District 15 officials said. The new Motorola system is expected to be ready for the 2019-20 academic year.
State law allowed the district to seek a specific brand without a bidding process mandating the lowest price wins.
However, Voceon Digital Radio Communications of Schaumburg says it offered comparable Hytera Communications Corp. products for $55,820 less than Motorola's.
"In these times of (tighter) school budgets, we thought it is critical that the board receive accurate information to make an informed decision as to whether the circumstances justify paying 30% more than Hytera's bid," Hytera regional sales manager Chad Stojkovich said before the school board approved United Radio's Motorola package.
District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson said the potential cost savings is "not worth anything in a crisis if the radios aren't working."
"It really was our first responders that said, 'We don't want to have to grab a radio in a moment of crisis and have to learn how to use it. We're already familiar with Motorola radios,'" Thompson said. "And there were other things, but that was the key driver for the decision."
Voceon general manager Jonathan Koorsen contends school officials did not research Hytera's products, which would have cost $186,579 for the 503 digital radios, 100 chargers and associated equipment. The radios could have been programmed to communicate with existing Motorola equipment at no extra cost to District 15, he said.
Unrelated to the District 15 contract, Hytera has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Motorola of anticompetitive practices that force U.S. customers to pay inflated prices for critical communications equipment. The suit is pending in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
On Friday, Motorola announced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office upheld the validity of its patents against challenges raised by Hytera.