Time to cut land lines at Whitehorse city hall? Hefty phone contract has councillors asking

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Time to cut land lines at Whitehorse city hall? Hefty phone contract has councillors asking

Some Whitehorse city councillors think it's time to reign in the city's hefty phone bills.

Council is being asked to approve a new contract with its service provider at city hall, Northwestel. The deal is worth $756,000 dollars over three years — and that doesn't include long distance charges, or cell phones. 

The city's technology manager, Michael Reyes, told councilors on Monday there are currently 352 telephone land lines in use by various city departments. With no other service providers in Whitehorse, Reyes says the Northwestel offer is the city's only choice.

"Due to the number of telephone lines the only option is the three-year service term, which is the minimum," he said.

With a base rate of $42 per month for each line, plus regulatory fees, the monthly total (not counting long distance fees) works out to $21,000 — or, $252,000 annually.

Reyes also estimates there are about 150 to 200 cell phones now in use by city staff, but those are covered under a different contract.

Time to cut the cord?

Councillor Jocelyn Curteanu questioned the need for both, suggesting the trend in other government departments (Curteanu works for the federal government) is to cut land lines. 

"They have gone to cell phones and abandoned the land lines, and I just wonder if there are any savings to be had in that," said Curteanu.

Reyes replied that some departments and employees — such as those who directly interact with the public — need land lines. The city's technology department, however, only uses cell phones.

"The managers of each of the departments would be the one deciding whether the department needs both a land line and cell phone," he said.

Councillors also asked about cheaper "voice over internet protocol" (VOIP) options, but were told it would require upgrades to the city's computer network infrastructure to be viable.

City council is being advised by staff to waive the bidding process for the phone service and approve the new three-year agreement with Northwestel. Councillors will vote next week.