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County OKS $400K upgrade of phone system

Caryn Marcus, assistant to the Kandiyohi County administrator, answers a call Tuesday at her office in the Health and Human Services building in Willmar. The county will spend $400,000 to purchase a new telephone system to replace a system that's obsolete and at maximum capacity. Tribune photos by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- When it comes to county communications, talk isn't cheap.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners agreed to spend nearly $400,000 to purchase a new telephone system.

The voice-over Internet protocol system, including 732 desktop telephones, will be installed at all county offices in April and will replace a system that's obsolete and at maximum capacity.

"We're upgrading to the 21st century," said County Administrator Larry Kleindl, who fears the current phone system would be inadequate to handle an overload of calls during a disaster.

Kleindl said the upgrade was inevitable. "Whether you do it today or you do it a year from now, you're going to be doing it."

The commissioners budgeted $400,000 for the purchase.

A consultant that put the bid proposal together estimated the project at nearly $500,000.

The low bid from Transcend Communications, which features the ShoreTel system, came in at $399,970. Transcend didn't submit the lowest base bid among the six proposals, but once the alternatives were selected, it beat out the others in a competitive bidding process.

As a test to ensure the right system was selected, county department heads and a group of employees participated in a demonstration last week between the ShoreTel voice-over IP system and the next lowest bidder, Marco, which proposed Mitel equipment.

When it came to being user-friendly and able to meet needs of county departments, there was a consensus that ShoreTel ranked the best, said Jay Kroona, director of information technology for the county.

Commissioner Dean Shuck was initially reluctant to purchase what he called the "Cadillac" telephone system, but he did end up voting for it.

Commissioner Richard Larson said what some may consider a high-end communications system is now "standard."

The new system is expected to provide some long-term savings, including nearly $200,000 over five years in maintenance fees and line charges. There will be additional saving in long-distance fees because of the voice-over IP technology, said Kleindl.

The county will attempt to sell the old telephone system.

In other action:

? Kleindl said the bill for fighting the fire this fall at the demolition land fill was reduced by $12,772 after a compromise was reached this week with the city of Willmar regarding charges for supplies. The final bill of $90,228 will be paid with money from the county's general fund reserves. The county's insurance will only pay $2,500.

? Commissioners approved an agreement with the state Department of Natural Resources for a $91,902 block grant that includes local financial and in-kind matches for the feedlot program, shoreland management, wetland conservation and local water management.

? A proposal is being reviewed to lease space on a county tower located at the highway department to Verizon.

? Commissioners were given an update on a proposal to increase the liquid storage capacity at the sewer treatment plant that's part of the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750