The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

April 1, 2013

Readers' Forum 4-1 | Phone plan questioned, officials respond

— I read with interest the RFP (request for proposal) Cambria County has prepared in order to advertise for vendors to provide a “hosted” VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) telephone system.

It is my understanding that the county, in the past couple years, has implemented a brand new VoIP telephone system with a price tag of more than $1 million.

This, by the way, is the same phone system that Blair and Westmoreland counties have and maintain with their staff. (Blair County has an information-technology staff of three.)

Why, then, are we advertising for something we already own? Is there something wrong with the current phone system? Is the staff at the county not capable of maintaining this current phone system? Do they need additional training?

My philosophy is, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, especially if it involves an outlay of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money a year.

The RFP indicates the county is trying to reduce TCO (total cost of ownership). I would submit that the cost of paying for a “hosted” system for 800 phones is far more than allowing our county staff to maintain an already-paid-for phone system.

Is there another reason this phone system is being “outsourced”? Do the county commissioners have a technology committee to help guide them in complicated technology decisions and purchases? If not, perhaps they should.

One final note, if they do go through with this RFP, will the money stay in the area, or, once again, go to a company outside our area?

Pat Gallagher

Johnstown

Editor’s note: We asked the commissioners for a response, which follows:

Commissioners: System is outdated and costly

The letter from Pat Gallagher, a senior engineer at Link Computers, poses some interesting questions while raising some business ethics issues.

The RFP process is used to ensure due diligence is exercised before a decision is made to spend or not spend tax dollars.

Gathering information to make an informed decision is critical and this is why we are exploring options for the current telephone system.

The current system is not a true VoIP system; it is an expensive telephone system using traditional copper lines and was installed by Link Computers in 2009. The Cisco telephone system is three software versions behind and is no longer supported by Cisco, so the system is “broke.”

The cost to upgrade the system is $33,700, with an annual cost estimated at $26,000. The long-distance charges are twice the national average, and the monthly charges for the six telephone lines are excessive. The yearly operational cost for this system averages $126,000 and the IT staff was not trained by Link as per the original contract on page 2.

Our director of technology has 32 years of extensive experience, formal training and is very resourceful. A committee is not feasible at this time with the county’s limited personnel resources. We are exploring all options to reduce expenditures, and while it is understood that Link has a vested interest in keeping this system in place, we, as commissioners, have a fiduciary responsibility to our constituents to use their money wisely.

Mark Wissinger, Douglas Lengenfelder and Thomas Chernisky

Cambria County commissioners

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