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In this CVN file photo from 2018, Boone County Assessor Scotty Cook takes a call on the old telephone system, which the county is phasing out to provide considerable savings to taxpayers and simultaneously provide free WiFi on courthouse and courthouse annex property.

MADISON — Through the process of switching service providers, Boone County Commissioners moved to support the replacement of courthouse and annex telephone equipment in a move they believe will save the county over $12,000 annually.

Having supported the initiative in a previous regular session, the commission was updated on the project and what is considered the first phase in the switch from Frontier to Flowroute.

“We worked with Frontier and they agreed to get all of our phone numbers carried over — and that was a holdup for a while — and we’ve got all of the lines put in so Monday, May 3, is our day,” said Boone County Emergency Management Director Michael Mayhorn, who also absorbs some IT responsibilities for the county. “We pay about $2,500 per month on phone lines and that is an estimate. I estimate a savings of $1,000 or $1,200 on the high end based on normal average cost and usage.”

The savings will extend beyond what was discussed in the meeting on April 27.

Via county records, Boone County has spent over $90,000 in office phone maintenance for the Boone County Courthouse and the Boone County Courthouse Annex since 2011.

Through the vendor “The Phone Company,” which has a business license registered under “Phone Company,” the county has paid a quarterly maintenance service agreement fee of up to $2,550, with the vendor billing up to $100 per hour for services.

Outside of the quarterly charges, the largest check written to the company totaled $16,845.70 on Feb. 4, 2013, which aligns with the timeline of the opening of the then-new annex offices.

Mayhorn confirmed that he and the county’s IT employee will handle the programming, installation and upkeep of the new system and that the service contract with “The Phone Company” could be terminated as early as May 4.

He added that the county’s working relationship with the vendor could continue on specific projects or needs, but that the maintenance agreement would be terminated.

It is worthy of noting that the county will be on the hook for $3,500 annually for updates to the software and customer support. Mayhorn said that this is inconsequential when looking behind the numbers.

“We were paying up to $700 per month in long distance fees in addition to the $1,500 per month for the lines we had,” he said via text message. “Our new system charges a flat $1.89 per month, per line for the phone number. It only charges for the actual usage per minute after that.”

Boone County Courthouse complex phones are in actual use for an average of 1,500 minutes per day, according to Mayhorn.

“That is $15 per day in charges with the new company. This is where the savings really comes,” he added.

Mayhorn said additional savings will come in short order.

“We can create a wireless bridge for the maintenance department and there are two lines there that we can transition over later on for additional savings. Part of this phase is that we had to add WiFi hotspots in the courthouse to provide coverage for phones that didn’t have structured WiFi. This was at the request of several, including the judge and the prosecutor’s office, in years past. Also, attorneys coming in had no dependable WiFi access. We have extra benefits to this project outside of the new phone system.”

Mayhorn said free WiFi will be provided to guests on courthouse and annex properties with the switch.

An added benefit of the new system will come in the form of the Boone County Clerk’s Office staff being relieved of the unnecessary process of answering unrelated calls.

In other county agency news, Mayhorn expressed to commissioners that he needed to fill three part-time 911 telecommunicator positions, effective April 28, pending drug screens.

Mayhorn said he was pulling from a pool of applicants on file and they would start at the agency’s training rate of pay of $9 per hour.

“They are all three first responders within the county as EMTs or firefighters, so they have a good working knowledge of the county and our emergency operations,” Mayhorn said. “Usually, these are the folks that we have the most success with because of that familiarity.”

Commissioners moved to support the hires.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

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