PLEASANT HILL -- The City Council on Monday approved a three-year contract for software that supports police dispatching, record-keeping and related tasks, with the proviso that the city seek other vendors.

The decision extends until 2015 the city's contract with Alameda-based Data911/Hubb Systems LLC. Although council members sought a lower price, the company insisted that its quote of $248,979 -- which amounts to nearly $83,000 per year -- is the best deal it would offer.

The software runs a complex set of functions, including mapping incidents, generating statistical reports and linking to information about previous incidents reported at the same location.

The money for the software comes from the police technology fund.

"All the functions of the police department and daily operations are tied to this system," Lt. Peter Enea said.

The software law enforcement agencies use is highly specialized and few companies produce it. As a result, cities don't have much room to negotiate favorable prices.

So, the council asked the police department to investigate the possibility of using "open source" software instead. According to Enea, there isn't a viable open-source software alternative available for law enforcement agencies, nor does he expect such software will be developed by the December 2015 expiration date of the Data911 contract.

Councilman Jack Weir expressed frustration at what he described as a lack of viable competition.

"I'm very uncomfortable being locked into a situation like this," Weir said. "I always hate a situation when we have no alternative to a particular vendor."

Weir pointedly asked Enea what benefit the city gets from the contract with Data911 other than the software itself. Enea said the company, which Pleasant Hill has used for the past 23 years, provides "excellent customer support" such as customizing statistical reports at the police department's request.

Rather than approve a three-year deal, Weir suggested that the council approve a one-year, $92,122 contract with Data911 to give the staff time to look for an alternative provider.

Although Mayor John Hanecak and Councilman David Durant did not back Weir's proposal, they did agree that, beginning in January 2014, the city staff should report annually on the progress of developing feasible, competitive alternatives to the handful of existing law enforcement software vendors.

"I think a three-year window toward trying to achieve longer-term competitiveness is a good thing," Durant said.

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.