A proposed ordinance that would waive competitive bidding and allow a Pine Bluff company to examine ways to save the city money on landline phone bills was recommended for approval Tuesday by a committee of the City Council.
The Public Works Committee discussed the proposal, which gives Mayor Shirley Washington authority to contract with TLC Communications Company to evaluate the telephone system and identify areas of potential savings. The owner of the company, Trisha Childress, said she had worked for AT&T, the company that provides the city’s landline service, for 30 years and is very familiar with the way the company operates.
A review of phone bills for the city for the past three years showed that Pine Bluff paid $97.668.57 between December 2o14 and November 2015, $108,041.60 between December 2015 and November 2016 and $95,246.69 from December 2016 to October 2017. One of the areas that Childress said she would be looking at is phone lines that were installed when the police and fire departments were relocated while the Joe Thomas Public Safety building was being renovated that may still be active.
“I won’t know until I get the customer service records, but the Police Department moved to Sixth Street and has moved back now,” she said.
In return, the proposed agreement calls for Childress to negotiate a 20 percent annual savings on the bills for a period of one year.
“That’s 80 percent savings right off the bat,” Alderman Win Trafford said.
Committee Chairman Alderman Steven Mays asked if anyone working for the city had the ability to review the phone bills and make recommendations; City Finance Director Steve Miller said there was not.
“We’ve not been successful in negotiating with AT&T,” Miller said. “We may be leaving money on the table.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Trafford said. “I dread having to call AT&T because you can be on hold forever. It’s a nightmare.”
Included with the proposed ordinance and contract was a letter from Miller recommending Childress, who worked with his office to replace a 20-year old phone system with a new system. And while he said the office projected the costs associated with the new system would be equal to what they had been paying, “Ms. Childress identified a substantial number of redundant services and had those taken off our bill resulting in savings of $32,000 annually.”
At Mays’ request, Childress agreed to come back to the committee on a quarterly basis and report on her findings.
Alderman Bruce Lockett was not at the committee meeting Tuesday.