PROSPECT PARK, NJ - Ruthlessly scrutinizing areas of municipal government for cost-saving measures while updating infrastructure has been a key objective for the borough administration, according to Borough Administrator Intashan Chowdhury. Technology, and specifically IT and telecom, has played a crucial part in borough operations, especially during the pandemic where normal office operations have been disrupted and borough workers as well as residents are increasingly dependent on telecommunications and work remotely.
In the end, Chowdhury's efforts to seek out competitive alternatives to the borough's present telecom provider managed to yield significant savings for Prospect Park's bottom line. While looking for new companies to provide the borough's telecom services, "one of the proposals came in under the bid threshold when we solicited," Chowdhury said, therefore the borough did not have to bid the service in general.
"We were able to find opportunities and there was no need to bid as in previous years when we had to," Chowdhury said. "It was a standard proposal and we were reviewing them to go and to make the best decision. The companies provided proposals saying what they could do, soliciting quotes, and references."
The companies which competed for Prospect Park's business were Broadview/Windstream, Verizon One Talk, and Monmouth Telecom. In the end, Monmouth Telecom won out.
"We are excited to begin this partnership with Monmouth Telecom as our new communications provider installing and maintaining VOIP desk phones, software, and other telecommunications to all of our employees in the Borough," Mayor Mohamed Khairullah said. "Our decision to move forward with Monmouth Telecom best fits our needs to enable the municipal employees to communicate effectively and deliver the highest standards of service to residents. We also continue to maintain fiscal responsibility - generating cost savings in the amount of close to $50,000 from what we were currently locked into over the course of three years to the average taxpayer. I would like to thank my Council colleagues for supporting, as well as my Administration, Finance, and our Information Technology teams for collaborating on this project and providing the recommendation as we look forward to better serving the needs and interests of the Prospect Park community at-large."
"With our current vendor we had some issues with surcharge billing," Chowdhury said, "which we identified over three years, like out of state fees. We were able to go into this and ask for sample billing from the companies to get an idea of what they would do. When we did so, we were able to find that Monmouth Telecom with their fixed rate was less than all the other competitors. It was very competitive but Monmouth Telecom came out on top."
Chowdhury said that hidden fees and surcharges can add up over time. "Municipalities should ask for sample billing from these vendors to identify any holes. That way you don't get surprises. In the past we had some we were locked into, but we were able to come out of them and really deliver on the monthly rate."
The borough's current provider also rented the phones, something Chowdhury wanted to change so that the borough could eventually own its own hardware. "We wanted to go into a market-driven competition in the years to come, we were thinking about how to make this cost something we don't need to worry about going forward. To be fiscally responsible, nickle and dimed the process. We wanted the option to lease-to-purchase, so we pay throughout the course of three years, but then we own our own equipment. Going forward then it will only be the monthly rate and our software."
With the new service provider, Chowdhury said that the borough will be saving about $1,300 a month. "This is also a reflection that we have cut down on our cell phone bills. Our monthly bills have dramatically dropped because we switched service. We are also getting better service because we have a lot of priority on the cell phone service for Fire Department, Police, DPW, etc. Those are important factors. We are a small town, but we can make good recommendations, address our needs, and save capital if we convey it the right way. It takes a lot of negotiating, discussion, and collaborating. This is one of many things to come in our day-to-day savings as a municipality. It's a difficult time for all of us, and no town is perfect, but we have our people's best interest in mind where we can save and cut."
The switch-over will take effect next month.
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