Thursday, August 23, 2001

County awards oft-debated bid

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two Hamilton County commissioners ignored their lawyer and administrator and decided Wednesday to order computers for deputy sheriffs' cars from a firm that never bid on the $11 million contract.

        Commissioners Todd Portune and Tom Neyer said they would vote to award the contract to Sysborne LLC of Sharonville next Wednesday.

        Their decision spiked Commissioner John Dowlin's effort to reopen the process.

        The successful bidder in March was InfiNET of Blue Ash. However, its parent company, Teligent Inc., declared bankruptcy and Sysborne bought InfiNET in July.

        Since then, Sysborne has been trying to persuade the county that it is the successor to InfiNET and must get the contract.

        The initial 40 special, rugged Panasonic laptop computers will be installed as a pilot project within 90 days of the contract signing. Each car also will get a printer and scanners for fingerprints and driver's licenses.

        The goal is to turn every car into a mobile, wireless data and communications center.

        If the equipment works as promised, the county is to equip a total of 702 vehicles. If it isn't satisfactory, the county can seek new bids.

        The $11 million also covers installation, documentation for county computer staff, training, wireless connections, etc.

        “We're here. We're ready,” said Bill Carroll, chief executive officer of Sysborne. “The demonstration hardware is ready to go.”

        Mr. Neyer said he wanted to get the project moving and he wasn't deterred by warnings from Cynthia Fazio, the assistant prosecuting attorney advising the board.

        She said Sysborne may have purchased InfiNET but it wasn't the same company and awarding it the contract invited suits by losers in the original bidding battle.

        Mr. Neyer relied instead on Mr. Carroll's assurances that Sysborne is “in essence” the same as InfiNET on legal grounds and it retained key people involved in the project.

        Mr. Carroll also warned commissioners that further delays risked the county's $10 million computer grant from the U.S. Justice Department.

        Mr. Portune, who is a lawyer, said the issues were murkier than Ms. Fazio argued and awarding the contract to Sysborne was simply being “mindful of the realities of the business world.”

        Mr. Dowlin sided with Ms. Fazio and administrator David Krings, who said that new bids probably would involve newer equipment at lower prices.

        Sysborne would pass on lower prices and add new technology if they became available during the life of the contract, Mr. Carroll countered.


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