County to save big on phone service

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

They want more bang for their buck.

Lawrence County Commissioners Thursday approved plans to switch telephone service at the courthouse from SBC Ameritech to STI, Inc., a move that will save the county more than $35,000 a year. The county is also changing its long distance carrier from SBC Ameritech to First Communications, a move that will save another $1,500 or more a month.

Commissioners seemed pleased with Assistant Administrator Tami Meade, who spearheaded the effort to pinch the pennies.

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"STI was not to lowest bid but two others didn't even meet bid specs," Meade said. "SBI complied with everything I asked for."

STI is considerably less expensive than the service the county has now: SBC Ameritech charges the county $6,100 a month for basic service for 158 telephones. The monthly charge with STI will be $1,586 a month for a 60-month lease agreement. Neither figure includes long distance service.

Meade said none of the other bidders, being out of town, could not offer the same response time for emergencies that STI could, a major factor in awarding the bid.

"For instance, Echo 24 of Reynoldsburg said their response time would be four hours and if was getting close to quitting time it would be the next day (before they would come to fix the problem)," she said. "So, if I called them at 12 noon, when would they come? The next day?

What do I tell someone who doesn't have phone service? Wait until tomorrow?"

The unsuccessful bidders also had higher hourly service rates.

The STI bid included new telephones with features the current system does not have, such as voice mail and caller ID, features that SBC could have added- for an additional charge per phone.

"So, we're going to save $3,000 a month and get new phones?" Commissioner Jason Stephens asked.

"It's a no-brainer, really," Commission President George Patterson said.

Another plus: STI is located in Rome Township and is therefore a Lawrence County outfit.

None of the other bidders were local.

The county is also changing its long distance carrier from SBC Ameritech to First Communications.

"We switched two months ago from SBC to First Communications," Meade said. "The current bill with First Communications, with our 800 line and all, was $626.99.

The bill with SBC was a couple thousand a month. … I'm just looking at ways we can save money somewhere. I love it."

First Communications charges 3.9 cents a minute for a long distance call;

SBC charged 30 cents a minute. Meade said she plans on signing a three year contract with First Communications that will push the per-minute charge to 3.2 cents, and if First Communications lowers its rate below 3.2, they have agreed to give the county the newer lower rate.

"I want some check so that people can't make personal long distance calls," Patterson said. "I hope everyone understands. We've got problems with this kind of stuff and as far as I'm concerned, its theft."

Meade said the system the courthouse has now allows for checks of long distance calls. The new system will as well.