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City seeks bids on after-hours calls

Friday, April 19, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The city of Martinsville has issued a request for proposals from local firms interested in answering after-hours calls for utility and public works crews.

Since August, an Oregon-based company, AnswerConnect, has answered calls the city gets at night and on weekends about matters such as power failures, water/sewer problems and traffic light malfunctions.

Some Martinsville City Council members recently suggested that the city seek proposals from local companies, saying that area residents need the work that answering after-hours calls would provide.

Sealed proposals must be submitted to the city no later than April 26.

The request for proposals does not specify that it is only for local firms, but city officials have said that is what they are looking for.

City officials already have met with representatives of two local companies, ICF International and Faneuil. Although those firms have expressed interest in answering Martinsville’s after-hours calls, they have not yet responded to the request for proposals, according to City Manager Leon Towarnicki.

Until now, “we weren’t aware they could provide the service,” at least not at the level at which the city needs, Towarnicki said.

He said he does not know if any other local firms could provide the service.

After-hours call volumes can fluctuate greatly, depending on circumstances.

Records show that between October and December of last year, the city received between 306 and 438 after-hours calls per month.

However, 928 such calls were received in September, largely because of a power failure in which up to a dozen calls per minute came in, records show.

Before hiring AnswerConnect, the city used a local call center but officials have said there were problems when large numbers of calls came in at once, such as during storms.

If the city contracts with another local call center, the firm will be expected to have multiple phone lines and provide sufficient staffing and equipment to respond to unusually high call volumes, the request for proposals shows.

AnswerConnect charges the Martinsville a per-minute rate. Vice Mayor Gene Teague has estimated that the city will pay the company about $14,000 for the fiscal year that will end June 30.

City officials have estimated it would cost about three times that much to hire employees to answer after-hours calls.

The request for proposals shows the city is willing to consider paying a firm on a per-minute basis, fixed monthly cost or a tiered monthly plan. But if the tiered plan is used, the city reserves the right to change to a different tier if increases or decreases in call volumes dictate.

A company that is hired must provide a performance bond valued at 100 percent of the annual contract amount to ensure its “faithful performance” and hold the city blameless from any problems that arise due to inadequate performance, the request shows.

The city would hire a company to answer after-hours calls for the new fiscal year that will start July 1. If it is pleased with the company’s service, the city would be able to extend the contract annually for up to four years, according to the request.

The entire 16-page request is on the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s procurement portal at


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