Saratoga County

Vote expected on Saratoga Springs phone system

The City Council is expected to vote at a special session Tuesday on whether to spend up to $88,000

The City Council is expected to vote at a special session Tuesday on whether to spend up to $88,000 more on a communication system this year.

The 2008 capital budget amendment would allow the city to replace the telephone system this year for $258,000, instead of finishing it in two phases as originally planned at a higher overall cost, said Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton.

Officials say the 1992 phone system is outdated and the non-emergency police phone lines have failed to work on several occasions in the past year.

If the amendment passes, Sutton expects the phone upgrades will save the city almost $44,000 in operating costs in the first year.

The city already has borrowed $170,000 for Phase 1 of the project, which would give a new phone system to the city Police Department, two fire stations and City Hall.

And next year’s proposed capital budget includes $150,000 for Phase 2, which would network Canfield Casino, the water treatment plant, Department of Public Safety garage, Department of Public Works garage and the Recreation Department.

If the amendment to transfer the $88,000 from 2009 to this year passes, the mayor’s department won’t need the rest of next year’s money, Sutton said.

But she’s not sure whether the mayor has the needed four votes to pass the amendment, since the commissioners of public works and public safety don’t want to spend more money on a telephone system when their departments are slated for layoffs.

Ron Kim, commissioner of public safety, hasn’t decided yet how he’ll vote on Tuesday.

“I’m not sure given the current economic climate … that we should be spending all we’re spending,” he said.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the telephone decision at a public hearing at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall. The special City Council meeting starts at 1 p.m.

Sutton and Jamie Johnson, the city telecommunications specialist, met with municipalities that have high tech phone systems to find out how well they work.

“It has improvements to the computer network,” Sutton said. “It has redundancy and reliability and survivability built into it so that the chances of having any communication breakdown are pretty well eliminated.”

The city would be saving money by eliminating some more expensive phone lines and switching from copper lines to cable lines that can be used for telephones or computers.

Bells and whistles with the new system include the ability to do conference calls and a mobile emergency operations center that can be used anywhere there’s an internet connection, Sutton said.

“The whole idea is to make it more efficient for the employee.”

People will be able to dial direct numbers for every phone extension in City Hall if they know the number, rather than going through the switchboard operator, Johnson said. The switchboard still will be active for those who don’t know to whom they need to call.

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