The Washington City Council has approved the purchase of portable radios for the Washington Police Department.

The radios will be purchased through Wireless USA, which bid 15 Motorola 5-watt, 128 channel VHF radios at $10,125. The radios include a nickle metal-hydride battery with a rapid charger and a belt clip for each unit. The radios have a three-year warranty.

Additional equipment, including microphones and spare batteries, would be needed. The total cost of the additional equipment is  $1,160.50, which puts the total cost for the radios at $11,285.50.

Another bid, by Radio Comm, was $945.50 lower.

Radio Comm bid with Icom 15-watt, 512 channel VHF radios, which include a lithium-ion battery with rapid charger for each unit and a three-year warranty.

Each radio is $487.50, for a total cost of $7,312.50.

Like the Wireless USA radios, the Radio Comm radios would require additional equipment to meet department operating requirements.

The total cost, which included trading in  old radios, was $10,340.

In a letter to Chief Ken Hahn, Capt. Ed Menefee recommended the Motorola portable radios, even though they have a higher price tag.

“The Motorola HT 1250 has been in use with our department for eight years,” it stated. “The radio has proven to be reliable, sturdy and provides the level of service our officers need.”

Menefee said radios rarely have to be taken in for repair.

He pointed out that the Icom radios are a new model from a new company, so the service history is unknown.

Additionally, officers are trained on the Motorola models. If the Icom radios were purchased, half of the officers will have Icoms and the other will have the older models.

“Equipment standardization is a major factor in an emergency organization,” the letter says. “When officers are in critical situations, they need to have the capability to readily and without transition trade equipment or use the equipment of another officer’s ... inability to be able to use the Icom by another officer could mean an inability to communicate on a proper channel at a critical time.”

Menefee said the Washington Volunteer Fire Department also uses Motorola portable radios.

One downside to the purchase is that the radios have to be taken to Wireless USA in St. Louis if there are warranty issues.

Budgeting was set at $10,125 for the radios. The required additional equipment puts the Motorola radios over budget by $1,160.50.

The resolution passed unanimously without discussion at the city council meeting.

Police, fire and ambulance personnel in Franklin County are switching to narrowband communications to meet a 2013 federal government requirement.

The mandate is to free up frequencies for cellphones and other consumer devices.