Cell phone cuts save $112K

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, August 1, 2009

An effort to reduce the amount the city pays for cell phone service has resulting in a 55 percent reduction in the city’s wireless expenses.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn instituted a policy governing the use of cell phones, BlackBerry devices, push-to-talk telephones and wireless air cards to help close a $9.3 million budget gap. The new policy is saving the city an estimated $112,000.

“I appreciate your willingness to reduce the total number of city-issued wireless communication devices from 468 units to 296 units,” Cuffee-Glenn wrote in a memo to city department heads. The number of units was reduced by 37 percent.

The new policy states one BlackBerry is issued to each city department to be assigned by the department head as necessary. In addition, certain city employees will be eligible to receive a $20 per month stipend toward the use of their personal phone for city business.

To be eligible for the stipend, employees must be identified by their department head as needing such devices to perform essential job functions, and also must meet one of the following criteria:

4Wireless communication access is necessary to ensure the safety of the employee

4Immediate direct communication and responsiveness is necessary to conduct assigned duties, and there is frequently no access to a landline phone or city radio system

4The employee performs more than half of his job duties outside the office, and does not have access to a city radio system

Those employees who do not receive a stipend, but occasionally use their personal phone for city business, can request reimbursement for the cost.

The city manager also issued a draft of a new policy for use of the devices.

The policy prohibits employees from talking or text messaging on any device — personal or city-owned — while operating a city-owned vehicle, or while operating any vehicle in the performance of job duties. Doing so could result in termination of employment, the policy states. It does not, however, prohibit police and public safety personnel from using radios as they typically do.

The policy also discourages employees from placing personal phone calls or text messages during working hours. The use of personal devices during work hours is prohibited, except in an emergency or if the call is related to city business.

The policy further states that an employee who damages or loses a city wireless device could be required to pay the city for its repair or replacement. In addition, no employee who objects to using a wireless device will be required to use one, because of concerns about the long-term health effects of wireless use, the policy states.