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Commissioners invest in new county phone system

After 21 months of evaluating and researching by Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar, the Grady County Commission accepted this week his recommendation to purchase new, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephone equipment.
Commissioners met Tuesday with Paul Odum of Odum Telecommunications, Inc. of Thomasville to discuss his low bid for the phone equipment.
The only other bid the county received was from Windstream Communications for $66,522.29.
“We were looking at what we could do to take advantage of technology to reduce our operating costs,” Tobar said.
On Tuesday, the county agreed to pay Odum $45,962.36. Of that total, $38,119.86 is for the phone equipment, training and installation. An additional $7,842.50 is for firewall and routers.
Grady County Administrator Tobar said 17 analog-to-digital gateways at a cost of $144 each would be purchased in lieu of a fax server, which was originally contemplated in Odum’s proposal.
Odum told commissioners he started his company in 1985 and he serves telecommunication equipment needs for the Thomas County Board of Commissioners, Thomasville City Schools, Thomas County Schools as well as clients from Mississippi to North Carolina.
The county will continue to pay Windstream for providing incoming and outgoing service, but the county will no loner have to pay for the analog phone lines on a monthly basis.
The county is also buying the new equipment and will no longer make monthly lease payments for the existing phone system, according to Tobar.
The phones Odum is proposing are made by a company in Sarasota, Fla., and he says they can be taken off premises, plugged into Internet service and work just as if the phone was on a desk in the courthouse.
All county personnel will be able to make intercom calls to various county offices and departments without having to dial a seven-digit phone number.
According to Tobar, the county is paying approximately $5,300 per month for analog phone service. By shifting to a VOIP system, he projects the county will begin saving approximately $1,000 per month.
Odum said with the proposed firewall equipment the county will be able to block certain websites on all county computers and the firewall will prevent intrusion into the system.
Tobar says the county currently has 92 phones in use. Odum said the phones can be upgraded with future software updates at no extra charge.
Commissioner T.D. David asked Odum to explain the differences in the equipment he was bidding and the equipment proposed by Windstream.
“Ours does the same thing as Windstream. You stated in your bid specs that the lowest dollar was the deciding factor so I bid on a cheaper phone, but it does everything the high priced ones do,” Odum said.
Commissioner Elwyn Childs asked if the county should buy or lease the new equipment. According to Odum, if the county is in the position to purchase the equipment up front it would be to its advantage to buy rather than lease.
Commissioner Ray Prince said based on the bids and Tobar’s projections, the county would recoup its investment in about three years.
Odum said he could have the equipment here and could begin installation and prepare for training county personnel next Monday. Tobar said May 22 is the date Windstream will have completed its work to connect all county offices with high speed Internet service.
Commissioners voted unanimously to accept Odum’s bid of $45,926.36 and instructed the Thomasville firm to order the necessary equipment.
County commissioners last month accepted a bid of $7,917.68 from Odum Telecommunications for a new server for the Grady County Tax Commissioner’s office and $12,913.63 from Odum for a new server for the Grady County Sheriff’s Office.

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