City eyes new phone, networking system for Sunnyside

The phone system used by the city of Sunnyside is outdated and no longer meets the needs of staff.

That's according to Information Technician Ryan Austin.

Last night the Sunnyside City Council was presented with a proposal for an updated phone and networking system.

Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson said the city has used the Nortel phone system and CenturyLink, which has been known as Qwest and Sprint, for more than eight years.

"Nortel is no longer in business," he said, stating it is becoming more difficult to expand the phone system and maintain it.

The city, said Olson, was looking at partnering with Yakima County. Sunnyside would have joined the county's network, but the city would still need to purchase its own phone system.

The partnership is no longer a viable option for the city, however. State and federal regulations prevent the county from offering networking services at the price the city was initially quoted.

As a result, the city still has to purchase its own phone system, but must also look at networking options.

Olson said the city of Sunnyside inquired with six companies that offer networking systems. CenturyLink's prices will be on the rise and Charter Communications submitted the least expensive option.

To switch to Charter from CenturyLink, the anticipated savings would be in excess of $51,000 over a five-year period.

The city of Sunnyside would purchase a Cisco voice over internet protocol system (VoIP).

"And if at some point we join the county in a consortium, we will already have the same system in place," Olson said, stating Cisco systems are used by Yakima County.

He said funding for the phone and data updates is in place within the IT budget.

Olson said he anticipates savings as well as the ability to conduct communications via a "state-of-the-art system."

Providing support for the telephone system would be Cerium.

When asked about the certainty regarding the sustainability of the Cisco systems, Olson was confident the city would not find itself in a situation like the one it presently is in.

He said Cisco will continue to provide systems in some capacity or another, whether as a standalone company or a company that has been included in a merger.

Olson said Nortel had several issues with patents and other business complications, but Cisco has a reputation as a company that can be depended upon.

Cerium, the company being suggested to provide support for the new system, quoted a five-year lease agreement in the amount of $162,187. At the end of the agreement, the city can purchase the Cisco phone system for $1. Charter quoted a $5,000 installation fee for the fiber optic line and $330,000 for five years of service.

Councilman Don Vlieger said, "$510,000 is no small expense."

He wanted information from city staff regarding an option to purchase and install fiber optic lines. He asked for the information last month, but did not feel it was provided last night.

Vlieger was disappointed city staff did not provide him more details regarding that option. He wanted to know if there would be a cost savings if the city owned its own fiber optic lines.

Austin told the council the city staff sought quotes from six providers for installing fiber optic lines. Only one of those companies provided a quote for labor and materials. The city would still have to sign an agreement with the utility pole owner (Pacific Power). Austin said maintenance and repair of the fiber optic line, should something happen, would be the responsibility of the city.

The city of Sunnyside would need to contract with a company that has the expertise to maintain and repair the lines.

With Charter, the expertise is already available, said Olson.

Mayor Jim Restucci said he has concerns about the city maintaining a fiber optic line.

"City staff may not be able to manage the fiber optic," he said, noting Austin is currently the only information technician in the city's employ and an additional information technician would still not be sufficient for such an endeavor.

Vlieger argued, "I don't think all the homework has been completed."

Olson said the city needs to make a decision in a timely fashion because CenturyLink will increase the current system prices in January.

If the city changes systems, all hardware and connections must be in place before the new year.

It was proposed the council consider the matter further at its Monday, Oct. 3, workshop meeting. However, Vlieger will not be present. Austin and Olson were directed to prepare a report, answering any questions posed at last night's meeting. The report is to be provided to the council members as soon as possible so a decision can be made at the Monday, Oct. 10, regular council meeting.


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