By Sue Botos

Rocky River

Officials are hoping a new phone system will move communications with and between city facilities into the 21st century.

“We’ve all heard over the years how bad our phones are,” said Mayor Pam Bobst of the municipal phone network, which was last updated in 1998. At its Oct. 12 meeting, City Council introduced legislation calling for the purchase of a municipal phone system from Warwick Communications at a cost of $95,920.09. The funds will be paid from the equipment purchase fund’s software and hardware account.

Bobst said that originally eight vendors expressed interest in the job, but after the extensive update was explained, and representatives toured City Hall, only Warwick bid on the project. “Given the state of disrepair our phone system is in, it makes sense,” added Bobst.

The current municipal phone system serves most city facilities including City Hall, the fire department, recreation center, civic center, Memorial Hall, senior center, service garage and wastewater treatment plant. The only exception are the police division phones, which Bobst said were replaced two years ago out of necessity. She noted that the police system will coordinate with the new phones. Presently, calls can not be transferred directly from City Hall’s main number to the police station.

Safety service director Mary Kay Costello explained that many vendors offer VoIP, Voiceover Internet Protocol, a method of taking analog audio signals, like those heard during a phone conversation, and turning them into digital data that can be transmitted over the internet. This option allows for direct communication between computers, and can bypass some of the charges tacked on by traditional phone companies. (For a detailed explanation, see computer.howstuffworks.com/ip-telephony1.htm)

Costello told West Life that while the phones have been repaired throughout the years, the original wiring, installed when City Hall was constructed in 1954, is still being used. Due to solid concrete walls and small work space behind them, Costello said replacing the wiring would be challenging work.

“This building (City Hall) would need a massive cable upgrade. We don’t have the infrastructure to support that, and no one wanted to take us up on that,” she stated.

Costello added that the cables powering City Hall computers were left behind when the Rocky River Municipal Court moved to its new building in 2002.

Realizing a technology upgrade will be necessary in the near future, Costello recalled, “We consulted with our IT department and asked them what to do first. They urged us to replace the phones.” She added that during the last repair job, refurbished parts had to be found because new components for the current phone system are no longer being manufactured.

The new cables, Costello said, may be phased in gradually, beginning in 2017, to avoid as much disruption as possible in the functioning of city departments. Items such as servers and computers can be added to prepare for new technology.

“At least we’ll have the physical phones waiting for us when we upgrade,” she added.

Council is expected to hear three readings of the legislation before passage.

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