Chattanooga City Council taking a closer look at Excalibur contract
The man who has helped Chattanooga build a wireless network for its city services is under fire and could lose his contract.
Some city council members are questioning whether the price for the service is too much.
Excalibur Integrated Systems is responsible for managing and maintaining the city's wireless MESH network. Now city council wants to know if the close to $7 million it has paid over the past five years is worth it.
As the new Chattanooga city council is settling in, it is beginning to take a closer look at city expenses. Part of that includes putting city contracts, like Excalibur's, under the microscope. The president and CEO says there is plenty of value in what his company is doing.
"Chattanooga's putting in one of the, probably, one of the most state of the art systems in the country right now," says Rodger Jenkins, president and CEO of Excalibur.
You have probably noticed the white boxes on top of traffic light poles or on the corner of city buildings. There are more than 600 across the city. They are all transmitters for Chattanooga's wireless MESH system.
"It's not a lot different from what's in your home, except a lot more powerful and offers a lot more features," says Jenkins.
Jenkins says for the past five years, Chattanooga-based Excalibur Integrated Systems has been paid $6.9 million to build and expand the network.
Chattanooga Police can use the system for communication on their laptops in patrol cars. The latest project is installing an Intelligent Traffic System, which provides real time monitoring.
"For me, it's always return on investment," says Ken Smith, councilman for District 3.
Smith, along with the rest of the council, is taking a closer look at the contract with Excalibur, saying there are no clear benchmarks or time-tables established for any work done. They are also concerned the city spends roughly $20,000 a month for maintenance.
"When you end up with a situation where you have a sole-sourced contract without a measurable outcome, it really makes you want to go back and start to look at some of the finer details that are involved," says Smith.
"Are we getting what we're paying for?" asks Larry Grohn, councilman for District 4.
It is a concern for councilman Grohn as well.
"If you're talking about Hixson or East Brainerd or Lookout Valley, some of those tax payers have legitimate concerns in saying, 'What am I really getting for my tax dollars?'"
Jenkins says of the 47 city projects so far, every one was signed off.
"The contract is an open, blanket contract. It basically says, 'We're not going to spend more than this and if we do, then we have to come back to council and ask for more money.' Which they did on at least three occasions. And on three occasions, they saw fit to continue extending," says Jenkins.
Bottom line, he is open to contract adjustments and the council is not writing off Excalibur just yet.
"I'm open to working with the best vendor who's going to provide the city the best value for its dollar," says Smith.
Jenkins says the wireless system, versus an older analog system, can provide up to 40 percent in savings. He also wants to make it clear, of all the money spent so far on the projects, 80 percent of that is grant money.
Mayor Berke's office says it will be reviewing the Excalibur contract as well, along with all other government contracts.