By Tyler Lamb


Members of the Finance and Judicial Committee Monday approved an offer by Internet and phone provider TDS Telecom to upgrade the aging municipal phone system.

According to Mary Hinske, finance director/comptroller, Heartland Business Systems (HBS) completed an information technology network audit for the city earlier this year. During the course of the audit, HBS determined the city’s municipal buildings have “little current infrastructure” necessary for future technological expansions.

The present system has been in place for roughly a decade and is comprised of roughly 50 phones, according to Sam Tapson, city administrator.

As a result of the audit, the city requested area phone and Internet carriers to provide recommendations to assist in implementing a modern phone system, as well as data communication between municipal buildings.

Two proposals were placed before the committee for consideration. One from HBS, while the second hailed from TDS Telecom.

Prior to giving the nod to TDS, the committee weighed two key considerations. The considerations were as follows:


Operational considerations

At present, a vendor no longer supports the city’s phone system. TDS, a Madison-based service provider, “is sometimes able to assist with minor problems that we encounter with the phone system,” Hinske noted in a memo to the committee.

Moreover, the city does not presently have data connectivity between municipal buildings.

“Given our current structure, with departments located in buildings separate from the city hall, it would be beneficial if these departments, particularly the electric utility, were able to access some of the programs and files on the city hall server,” Hinske noted.


Financial considerations

HBS assembled a proposal for the purchase and installation of a new phone system, along with data connectivity capabilities, according to the submitted proposal. The initial cost is more than $31,500 for infrastructure costs.

TDS provided the city with a pitch for a “hosted” phone system; however, annual charges would be $10,000 higher ($863 per month) than if the city owned the equipment. TDS also proposed a $6,000 “rebate and gift card” offset.

“I’m inclined to think along the lines of the lease myself,” Tapson said. “Simply, for all the reasons already stated.

“You don’t know where you’re going to be, or how you’re going to manage it in two, or three, or five years,” he continued. “The way technology moves forward, do you really want to be owning obsolescence, if you will?”

Following minimal debate, the committee elected to recommend TDS’ offer to the city council. The council will take up the matter during its regular meeting next Monday.


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