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Cell phone program paying off, officials say

By Staff | Feb 19, 2011

Cape Coral’s cell phone stipend program for employees has already garnered “significant savings,” city spokeswoman Connie Barron said Friday, saving the city upwards of $160,000 a year.
Implemented in January, the program took 580 phones out of circulation, and off the city’s books, offering instead a tiered stipend program for employees who opted for the stipend through use of their personal cell.
The city was spending roughly $260,000 annually on cell phones, according to Barron.
Since the program’s implementation, 151 employees have decided to use the stipend program.
Barron said of the 580 phones previously in circulation, about 300 of those employees and phones were eligible for the program.
The city has 33 “pool” and “on call” phones remaining, according to Barron.
Employees are required to sign those phones in and out, with the billing statements are monitored monthly on those phones.
Any personal phone calls made of the 33 remaining phones are billed back to the employee at roughly 45 cents a minute. If a phone is lost or damaged by the employee who signed it out, the employee is responsible for replacing it.
The city still does maintain “direct connect” phones for employees at $5 per month, per phone, which allows the users to communicate phone to phone similar to Nextel technology.
Department of Community Development employees are all using the direct connect phones or “unified messaging”.
Unified messaging allows for voice mails to be left for DCD inspectors, who then are able to check the messages on their laptops via email.
Barron said inspectors prefer direct connect.
Cape Coral Construction Industry Association Executive Director Heather Mazurkiewicz said the industry has so far not found any issue with the newly redesigned communication system
“We would prefer the inspectors have their cell phones in the field, but they chose not to take their stipends,” Mazurkiewicz said. “As long as our levels of service remain the same, we’ll be fine. Should that change we’ll ask them to change their policy, but for now we’re keeping a close eye on the situation.”
Barron said the city would look at the CCCIA’s concerns should they arise.
Barron added that a true picture of the cost savings may take a while to become clear, but for now the program seems to be working and saving the city money in the process.
“It’s going to evolve somewhat over time, as some employees may change their minds and come back later and take the stipend,” she said.
The city has not had to add any land lines or purchase any added laptops for the new communication practices.