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City's new phone system beginning to show savings

The City of Sunnyside might already be seeing some differences in its phone bill, but according to information technology manager Troy Huff, it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Huff said the new phone system, which was installed in October 2003, should ultimately save the city between 50 and 60 percent on its phone bill.

Looking back at the city's payment vouchers from January and February 2003, the city was typically paying more than $5,000 a month for local phone service, not including long distance charges. According to the January 2003 payment voucher the city paid $5,648 to Sprint for its local service and an additional $807 for long distance. In February 2003, those numbers stayed roughly the same with the cost of local phone service coming to $5,739. That month long distance charges were listed at $1,802.

One year later the city is beginning to see some savings. The January 2004 payment voucher for local phone service totaled $2,828, with long distance costing the city an additional $695. The February 2004 payment voucher shows that the city was charged $6,251 for local phone service and $770 for long distance service.

Huff said one of the reasons the February 2004 bill for local service was so much more than the January bill is because of a billing issue. He explained that the city leases the fiber optic connection between Sunnyside City Hall and the law and justice center, but had not been charged the monthly fee since October. He said Sprint ended up charging the city one lump sum to cover the cost of the lease over the previous four months. The charge showed up on the city's February phone bill.

According to Huff, the city's local phone bill includes the cost of not only local telephone service, but also the city's data circuits.

Huff explained that although the city is beginning to see some savings on its phone bill, it is not yet the type of savings he hopes will ultimately come from the $156,000 phone system upgrade. He said the city is still having some billing issues with Sprint, noting that the city is continuing to get billed for services it no longer uses. However, he said Sprint has been very accommodating.

He said the city will receive credit on their upcoming bills for anything they have overpaid. Huff said once the billing issues get ironed out the city will begin seeing those credits. Huff estimates that the billing issues should be cleared up by the time the May phone bill arrives, noting that the average phone bill for local service should run about $2,000 a month.

Huff said the new phone system should end up saving the city $25,000 to $30,000 a year on its phone bill.

Huff said the cost of phone service isn't the only way the city is saving money with the new system. He explained that since installing the new phone system the city has moved four or five people into different offices, and has relocated a conference phone. He said with the old system each of these moves would have required the city to pay for a service call from Sprint.

"We've done a number of other things that would have cost about $250 per incident, but there was no charge because we are doing it ourselves," Huff said.

Another change the new system has brought with it is in the form of the city's phone bill. Huff explained that with the previous system the city received phone bills for each of the separate phone lines the city operated. This meant that every month there was a pile of phone bills to deal with. Huff said once everything falls into place the city should find itself receiving only one phone bill for its entire phone system, including services to city hall, the law and justice center, the fire department and the public works service center.

. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at eolmstead@eaglenewspapers.com

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