Thanks in part to a $95,238 grant, the River Forest Fire Department will replace 15-year-old  portable radios with new tri-band models.

Village officials cleared the way for the 20 new radios at the March 8 virtual village board meeting by voting unanimously to waive the formal bidding process and accepting the state contract quote from Chicago Communications at a cost of $139,159. The village will cover the $43,921 difference with capital improvement plan (CIP) funds.

Officials originally planned to purchase 40 new radios – 20 for the fire department and 20 for the police department – over a five-year period using CIP funds but learned in September that the fire department had been awarded the Assistance to Firefighters grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Under a revised plan, the police department will use CIP funds to purchase five new radios over a four-year period beginning with fiscal year 2023. Estimated costs are $38,857 in each of the first three years and $39,751 in the fourth year.

Fire Chief Kurt Bohlmann said the two departments’ current portable radios were given to the village by Cook County Homeland Security over 15 years ago. Although the expected lifespan of the radios is 10 years, they are still operational but “well past their useful lifespan.” 

Bohlmann said the radios are called tri-band because they are capable of transmitting in UHF, VHF and digital signals, which he said is “becoming increasingly necessary.”

The base price of the Motorola APX8000 radios is $5,983 each with required accessories increasing the overall cost.

Bohlmann said the deadline for spending the grant funds is September and estimates it will take four to six weeks to process the purchase.

“Portable radios are a vital piece of safety equipment for the fire department,” Bohlmann said. “Portable radios provide the ability to communicate on an emergency scene from different sides of the scene and from different floors when smoke and fire interfere with visibility.”

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