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New network for county offers security, savings

Washington County government has completed a much-needed phone system upgrade that will provide a significant reduction in operating expenses.
Mayor Dan Eldridge told county commissioners during their June 23 meeting the implementation of a network linking the phone and computer systems was finished two weeks earlier.
“The computer is now much faster and more secure, with the latest technology protecting our data,” Eldridge said. “The firewall security is the biggest plus.”
In addition, voice messages can be received by email, which Eldridge said allows him to be more efficient. “I have been out of the office more than in lately, and the network allows me to keep up and not be three hours behind in returning telephone calls when I come back to the office.”
The beauty of the decision, Eldridge pointed out, is not having to pay extra because the landline cost is offsetting the lease cost. “We will have substantial cash flow savings of at least $16,000 per month at the end of the lease,” he said.
This implementation of the network was completed by Bailey Computing Technologies, Inc. of Gray in a series of phases during the last year, according to Purchasing Agent Willie Shrewsbury.
When research into moving to a v­­oice over Internet Protocol network began several years ago, the county was paying for 384 telephone landlines, many of which weren’t answered or only provided a busy signal when called.
Shrewsbury said the antiquated system was more than 20 years old. “It was extremely expensive to repair the phones, and we had to call for a new line if they were moved,” he said.
Even when a telephone outlet was available at the different location, Shrewsbury said a line had to be programmed to recognize the phone before it could be plugged in. “We had service charges and trip charges, and the new system will eliminate a lot of that,” he said. “While some of the phones are still with Centrex, we’re eliminating the monthly recurring cost by 80 to 85 percent.”
In addition, at the end of the five-year lease agreement with Cisco, the county will own the equipment. Total cost for the new system and network is approximately $750,000.
With the exception of the Health Department, which operates on a different system, Shrewsbury said every office will use the network.
Each department sat down with BCTI at the beginning of the project and did a call flow system to determine the options needed in the different areas.
Included in the new options are caller identification, call forwarding, intercom, three-way calling and voice mail. “You can do as much or as little as you want with the new system,” Shrewsbury said.