Harris plans court appeal of Motorola Solutions selection for Florida P25 system
Harris plans to ask a state district court to overturn the state of Florida’s selection of Motorola Solutions as the vendor to build and operate a new P25 statewide law enforcement radio system (SLERS) that Harris unsuccessfully protested earlier this year, according to a notice of appeal filed last week.
Harris filed the one-page notice of appeal with the Florida District Court of Appeals. Harris is scheduled to submit a formal brief outlining the substances of its case in the matter by Jan. 10, according to a Harris spokesperson.
Harris is appealing the decision by the state of Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) to enter into contract negotiations with Motorola Solutions for the statewide standard-based P25 radio system, which is expected to replace the current Harris-run SLERS network that uses proprietary EDACS technology from Harris. The transition from the EDACS system to the P25 network is scheduled to occur by the end of June 2021, when the current contract with Harris expires.
This appeal marks the second formal attempt by Harris to block DMS selection of Motorola Solutions for the statewide P25 system. Harris protested the selection earlier this year, but Administrative Law Judge Bruce Culpepper issued a recommended order in favor of Motorola Solutions. DMS adopted Culpepper’s recommendation in issuing a final order to pursue an agreement with Motorola Solutions.
From a legal standpoint, the appeal in the district court is not expected to impact the ability for DMS to negotiate with Motorola Solutions, according to a Harris spokesperson. A Motorola Solutions spokesperson also said that negotiations would not affected by the appeal. A call by IWCE’s Urgent Communications to DMS was not returned in time to be included in this article.
The importance of the Florida contract to both Motorola Solutions and Harris is evident. During Motorola Solutions’ earning call last week, a company executive reference the Florida system as “the biggest statewide project” in the U.S. market today. Meanwhile, Harris officials have noted the current SLERS supported communications throughout Hurricane Michael and have asked state officials to reconsider the DMS procurement decision for the P25 network.
One key aspect of any deal for Florida’s planned statewide P25 network is funding, according to multiple sources.
Although the Motorola Solutions bid was significantly less than the one submitted by Harris, Motorola Solutions’ proposal includes a maximum annual price for providing the P25 SLERS service for 15 years at $32.65 million per year, but current SLERS funding sources total about $18 million per year. To date, Florida lawmakers have not identified a source for additional funding to pay for the SLERS, but the legislature is scheduled to reconvene in March.
In addition, the Motorola Solutions proposal for SLERS calls for the use of 21 tower sites that are owned by Harris and are being used to support the existing EDACS-based SLERS. Motorola Solutions’ proposal anticipates being able to use these 21 towers—dubbed “conveyed towers” in Culpepper’s ruling—rent free, but Motorola Solutions’ ability to leverage these assets of the current statewide radio system is a matter being disputed by Harris, according to Culpepper’s ruling.
Multiple industry sources have questioned whether the termination clause included in the procurement language will need to be addressed. The Motorola Solutions bid implies an agreement to a “Termination for Convenience” clause in a prospective contract—a stipulation that initially caused Harris to express reservations about the new SLERS initiative.
“This provision authorizes the Department the right to terminate the SLERS contract for any reason, or no reason whatsoever,” according to Culpepper’s ruling. “One example of how the Department might cancel the contract “for convenience” would be if the Legislature determined that the state no longer needed, or wanted, the SLERS. The Termination for Convenience clause would allow the Department to terminate its agreement without incurring any financial obligation.”