Middlebury schools need new phone system at cost of more than $200K

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury schools are being asked to pool their resources to replace their common phone system, an undertaking estimated to cost between $200,000 and $300,000.
The district is currently putting together a request for proposals from telecommunications companies wanting to do the work, which includes replacing what officials said is some antiquated phone equipment that has occasionally misfired during the past few years.
“We are unable to find new parts (for the system) and we have had reliability issues,” said Bruce Macintire, facilities manager for the UD-3 school district, which includes Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
It is a system that includes a combined total of around 400 telephones used at MUHS, MUMS, Mary Hogan Elementary, the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center and the Addison Central Supervisory Union administrative offices.
Of most concern, Macintire said, has been some deterioration within the main computer box that enables the system to function. Some of the components within that computer box aren’t made anymore, or have to be remanufactured.
This past fall, a malfunction in the system’s computer box resulted in a six-day phone outage at MUMS, according to Macintire. That same outage also put voice mail out of commission for two-and-a-half days, he added.
“Luckily, this did not occur when school was in session,” Macintire said.
The failing phone system in question was installed when MUHS was being renovated and MUMS was being built in 1996-1997, Macintire noted.
“It was a close-out deal and saved some money at that time,” Macintire said of the phone system.
Now it’s time to bring the system up to modern standards, officials said.
“(Replacing) the phone system is critical, time-sensitive and necessary,” said Mary Hogan Elementary School Co-principal Tom Buzzell, who co-chairs a committee that looked at the schools’ phone needs. Six potential vendors have already been on walks through the schools to size up the scope of the job, according to Buzzell.
Projects costs will be divided among the four school entities based on the number of phones they possess. That translates into a 40-percent share for UD-3, 30 percent for the Mary Hogan school, 20 percent for the Hannaford Career Center, and 20 percent for the ASCSU administrative offices.
Most of the schools already have their share of the payment in the bank, meaning no additional impact on education property taxes.
For example, Mary Hogan school has around $274,000 in a reserve that can be tapped — with voter permission — for the school’s share of the phone project. The Middlebury school board was scheduled to gather Monday, May 14, to discuss a potential date for a special meeting for vote on the school’s share for the phone system. Voters at the same time will be asked to earmark some reserve funds for some new playground equipment on Mary Hogan school grounds in phase one of a multi-tiered landscaping and playground fix.
The exact dollar amounts for Mary Hogan School’s phone system contribution and playground expenses are still being worked out, Buzzell said.
Officials hope to assemble the funding within the next few months so that the new phone system can be installed before the start of next school year.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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