OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa City Council during Tuesday's meeting at City Hall approved a bid from Urbandale-based Marco Technologies LLC and will begin contract negotiations with the firm to upgrade the city's phone system.

The system would be modernized to include features such as call waiting, Find Me/Follow Me and caller ID, but also provide extensions to city departments simply by calling City Hall, rather than dialing different buildings.

There were six responses to the RFP, city information technology manager Edward Wilson said, with the field narrowed to Marco and Gordon Flesch Company Inc. The bids were close, but the Marco proposal came in at just over $116,000, $3,000 under Gordon Flesch.

"Based on their costs, implementation plan and their support during and after implementation, we felt (Marco) was the best fit," Wilson told the council.

The system upgrade was originally approved as a capital improvement project in 2018, but was re-addressed back in November.

"I could stand up and jump for joy," Mayor Tom Lazio said. "This is something that's been on my to-do list for five years. Glad to see we're getting it done."

Though Wilson was unsure how many phones would be involved, the system will affect almost every city department.

"That includes all the phones we anticipate, including 20 for Bridge View Center," he said. "It's City Hall, the law center, Public Works, Parks Department, The Beach, BVC, North and South Fire, landfill, airport, recycling center and water pollution."

City finance director Kala Mulder, who worked with Wilson to create the RFP, said the system is "basically all the modern technology a phone system will allow." The city is still working with a system installed in the 1960s.

"I'll be on one network, and we'll be able to have extension to call, like public works, whereas right now we have to call the actual phone number," Mulder said. "It also comes with a software package where you can see if people are available or unavailable. We'll be able to transfer calls, that we can't do right now." 

"Currently we have to tell people, 'Here's the number that you can call.'"

Councilman Marc Roe asked how many phone numbers the city will lose because of the new system, and what the long-term costs would be.

"We anticipate the phone system will have a five-year payback, and then after that a significant cost savings," Wilson said. "As far as losing actual numbers, I don't think we'll lose any. In fact, we may actually add some direct-dial numbers, but the cost of the actual phone numbers and concurrent phone calls will be much cheaper than our current service.

"It'll be consolidated into one bill," Wilson said. "We'll still have outside billing, say pump stations with land lines, or other buildings that aren't a part of the system. Right now, most of our facilities are hosted by CenturyLink, so we don't actually pay for any individual lines, but we pay for extensions, which happen to have a phone line number attached to them."

It's estimated the system will be functional in four months.

In other business:

• The city will issue a revised request for proposal for janitorial services at the Wapello County Law Enforcement Center. The city received a previous bid, rejected it because of possible nepotism, then issued a revised second RFP, which did not have any submissions. All the while, the previous agreement expired.

The city reconsidered extending the previous agreement after the RFP process, but will send a revised RFP that will allow for price adjustments on an annual basis.

"I was not pleased with how we handled this the first time around," councilman Bob Meyers said. "So I hope with this re-solicitation it'll be handled a lot better this time."

City administrator Phil Rath said the RFP is simpler than previous versions.

"I think the document is a little bit different, it's a little cleaner and a little easier to decipher," Rath said. "Hopefully that will help with the process."

Bids are due to the city clerk by March 10 at 2 p.m.

— Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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