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Ceres City Council approves consultant on phone service update at City Hall

The Ceres City Council last week approved a $47,267 contract with a consultant to do an overall assessment of the city's telephone systems and ways to make cost-effective improvements.

Communication Strategies of St. Helena was the company offered the contract.

City Manager Toby Wells said the city's current phone system is becoming outdates and should be replaced before they fail. The city mostly uses an Avaya Definity phone switch at City Hall but the company no longer produces switches and no longer supports software upgrades. Another component of the phone system uses an auxiliary Avaya Merlin phone switch system at the Corporation Yard, sewer plant office and Ceres Fire Stations 2, 3 and 4. Both systems date back to 1999 or earlier and have reached the end of their life, said Wells, and "could grind to a halt with little notice." He warned if that happens, the city's phone system will be off line until the Definity system is replaced. This outage would affect 538-5712, a published business line in Ceres Police Dispatch Center. He said the Police Department receives nearly as many emergency calls on 538-5712 as it does on 911.

Vice Mayor Mike Kline supported the contract but expressed concerns about the contract and wanted to be on record as not liking the hiring of consultants.

"I don't like the idea of paying of having to pay for a consultant for something that the city needs and awarding it for like $47,000 plus," said Kline. "After talking with Mr. Wells on this issue I can understand why we're doing this because of limited staff and everything, but then you look at this thing and it bothers me that in phase 4 we're paying them over about half of the money just to be project managers on this stuff."

He asked if the city had anyone in the IT department to be project overseers. He added that since Farren Williams, the city's IT manager, retired recently, he saw the predicament the city was in.

Kline motioned to approve the contract with the entire council supporting it with the exception of Councilman Bret Durossette who was absent.