(MITCHELL) - The city of Mitchell will install a new Cisco IP phone system for most of its city offices, with the others to come at a later date, allowing for a smoother, timely transition.
Krystal Shetler, of the Times-Mail, reports that Randy Clark of Helix Technologies made a presentation to the Board of Public Works and Safety Tuesday afternoon at City Hall, demonstrating how the Internet-based phone system works and how it will save the city money over what it was spending on its traditional phone system through Frontier Communications.
The only downside, Clark told the board, is that the phones do not work when the Internet is down.
"How many times in the past two years or so has your Internet been down here, George?" Clark asked city Clerk-treasurer George James.
James replied, "Two or three times, maybe."
"As with any utility, you're going to have down times," Clark said, "but we've made great strides in making our Internet solid."
Clark explained that Mitchell's fiber feed for Internet can come from two different locations. If one feed is dropped, it's immediately re-routed through the other feed, almost eliminating the chance of Internet shortages.
"This is a whole new way of looking at doing business," Clark told the board, which consists of Mitchell Mayor Gary Pruett, Councilman Everett Ferrel and local businessman Terry Slone. "It's a basic phone system, but with an amazing amount of features. It works over the Internet, not on copper lines. Copper lines, used in traditional phone systems, deteriorate over time and they're affected by the weather. There are no outside lines with this system, and no poles to break."
Clark said he's wanted to offer the phone service to the city for quite some time, noting Helix already provides the city with its data system. He, however, had to wait on the Federal Trade Commission to make a decision on the ownership of the "849" prefixes. He also noted if the city OKs the measure, then it will experience a savings because Helix has a buyer in the wings for the city's old phones. The city's contact numbers will all remain the same.
In addition, Clark noted, the city would save money each month over what it pays Frontier.
Currently, the city pays $1,400 to $2,100 a month to Frontier for its multiple phone lines and numbers in the various city departments.
Under the Helix proposal, which would temporarily exclude the water and sewer department and the police department to make the initial transition easier, the city would pay Helix a flat rate of $546.95 per month. However, it would also have to pay Frontier $661 each month for the lines utilized by the water and sewer plants and police station for a total phone bill of $1,207.95 each month.
"That's still saving you about $200 over your minimum phone bill through Frontier," Clark explained.
The initial installation cost is estimated at a one-time fee of $3,900, but that will be reduced by $1,200 if Helix sells the current phones the city is using to another customer. James said the money would be split up, coming out of each department's budget.
"The only thing I can see is that if we don't have the money in those budgets, then it will have to go in front of the city council for an additional appropriation," James noted.
Each board member asked questions about the system and training, but in the end, agreed it would be beneficial to the city, providing a greater level of customer service.
The measure to buy into the phone system passed 3-0. The new system will be installed within the next month.
Clark said the city can explore at a later date how to transfer the police and water and sewer departments to the Internet system and what that would entail.
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