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Council OKs new town phone system

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- The town government's move to a new home just got more expensive.

Town Council took action Monday to spend $135,307 on a new phone system for the government offices at 2 E. Main St. The system would extend to other agencies including the police department. Officials say the manufacturer has warned that the dated equipment, as it has approached its "end of life," may not survive a move to the government center.

Specifically, council voted 4-2 to approve an amendment to the current fiscal budget of $103,807 meant to supplement $31,500 previously allocated toward the expense. The town plans to buy a new Voice Over Internet Protocol phone system for the government center.

The expense comes in addition to the $1.5 million spent by the town on the former BB&T building, which Front Royal borrowed from its Department of Energy Services. The town paid $1.1 million for the building. Renovations cost $403,000 but did not include the new phone system as it was not needed, Town Manager Steven Burke said Tuesday.

Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker made the motion at the meeting Monday to approve the budget amendment and the related bids for equipment and services. Parker said he'd support the action because the town needs the new phone system.

"I'm disappointed that it wasn't included in that price [for the building renovation]," Parker told council. "I know we were trying to keep costs down but this truly should have been factored into those original figures so that council knew exactly what we were up against.

"Just a note to the public and the staff, I think we misled the community on what it actually was going to cost to renovate our municipal building," Parker added.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt voted against the motion.

"I feel the system we have over there is working great," Tewalt told council Monday. "I think we can move it back to Town Hall and I don't think we'll have problems with it."

Councilman Thomas Sayre warned what might happen if the system fails.

"I'm not a big proponent of spending this kind of money," Sayre said. "However, if the system went down our town phone system could be down for weeks."

In response to a question from Councilman Bret Hrbek, Burke explained that the town had been accumulating funds for the purchase in the current budget cycle. The town had planned to complete the funding in the next fiscal budget. The town will replenish the reserves for the amount it borrowed, Burke said.

Burke said the $135,307 covers the cost of the upgrade for a term of three years. At the end of the period the town likely would negotiate terms for the services, he said.

Council accepted bids for equipment and services from providers totaling $135,307. Bids are composed of $107,863.76 from Black box Network Services for the phone equipment and software. Council also accepted a bid of $15,500 from Syntax Communications for fiber-optic installation, network equipment and battery backup systems; and a bid of $5,500 from VMWare Licensing for the virtual network software, plus a contingency of 5 percent to cover unexpected costs.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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