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City in talks with ICF
To field after-hours calls

Friday, June 7, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville officials are negotiating with a local company that wants to answer the city’s calls for services for things such as power failures and traffic signal problems after regular business hours.

ICF International was the only firm that submitted a formal response to the city’s request for proposals, according to City Manager Leon Towarnicki.

“All indications are we’ll come to an agreement shortly,” Towarnicki said.

More than likely, he said, an agreement will be reached by Tuesday, when Martinsville City Council meets and he can announce the pact.

The council will not have to ratify the agreement, Towarnicki said, because about $15,000 has been budgeted for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 to cover after-hours call answering.

Towarnicki said the city had preliminary talks with ICF and another local call center, Faneuil, before it issued the request for proposals.

However, Faneuil was unable to provide employees throughout the night to answer the city’s calls because the firm closes around 10 p.m., he said.

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.

The city expects to pay AnswerConnect about $14,000 for its services in the current fiscal year. Officials have estimated it would cost roughly three times as much for the city to hire employees to answer after-hours calls.

City council members were interested in having such calls answered by an area firm to help stimulate the local economy, such as by providing work to local residents.

Records show that between October and December of last year, the city received between 306 and 438 after-hours calls per month. In September alone, though, 928 such calls were received, largely because of a massive power failure that resulted in about a dozen calls a minute to come in.

Storms that cause downed power lines and tree limbs to fall across roads can lead to sudden large increases in call volumes, Towarnicki said.

The fee that the city would pay ICF is to be based on the number of minutes that the company spends answering Martinsville’s calls, he said.

Because a contract has not yet been agreed upon, he said he could not be more specific.

If the amount the city ends up paying ICF is more than $15,000, “we’d have to find money in our budget” to cover the extra cost, the city manager said.

That money probably would be taken from savings achieved in other line-item expenses, he said.

Based on past call volumes, though, he said he does not anticipate the city having to pay the company much more than $15,000.


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