BENNINGTON — The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union board approved a number of expenses on Wednesday related to technology improvements within the schools.
As part of a project to upgrade the wireless internet across the SVSU, a request for proposals was prepared in March, said SU technology director Frank Barnes. Five vendors responded and submitted bids, but only two had systems that are compatible with the systems the school already uses, E-Plus, of Portland, Maine, and Namtek, of Bedford, New Hampshire. "Namtek only made a partial bid, so E-Plus is the only vendor that bid on the whole project," he said. That bid came in at $105,194.72.
He said this project is an E-Rate project, meaning it falls under the federal Schools and Libraries Program. This would mean the school system would be eligible to have 85 percent of the project's costs reimbursed, bringing the total cost to the school system down to about $15,000.
Board member Holly Bahan of Shaftsbury asked why Namtek had only made a partial bid, and asked if they were given the opportunity to complete the bid. Barnes said that the entire project had been included in the RFP, and that they had chosen to only submit a partial bid. Board member Leon Johnson, who represents Mount Anthony Union, made the motion to award the contract to E-Plus. It passed with support of every member of the board except Bahan, who abstained.
Next, Barnes said that after upgrades to the phone systems at the Bennington schools and Pownal Elementary, there would need to be work done at central office to make sure that everyone can communicate effectively. Barnes said the upgrades would cost about $13,000, and would come out of the technology department's equipment budget. The board made a motion to support that project, which passed with Ray Mullineaux of North Bennington voting against.
The final request had to do with a new three-year contract for copy, fax, and scanning related services. "The SVSU entered into a three year, consolidated multi-
function document output solution program beginning in fiscal year 2014," said Barnes, "The agreement provided an umbrella for all copy, scan, fax related services to include over 7.75 million copies annually, full service, parts and toner supplies. Under the program all equipment was standardized and cost is calculated district-wide resulting in a major cost savings for all SVSU member school districts."
Five firms submitted bids for the contract, and the low-bidder was the group the schools currently use, Repeat Business Systems, of Albany. Their bid came in at $89,165 per year over the course of the contract. There was an additional software license that Barnes was considering that would have allowed data to be pulled from scanned documents, but only one employee would have been using it, and it would have increased the cost by $21,980, plus $380 per license. The software was included in other firms packages, and would have made Quality Retail Systems of Schaghticoke, New York the low-bidder, at $94,833 including the software, but Barnes decided that it was not a necessary expense.
The board voted to accept the contract with Repeat Business Systems, which actually represents a savings on the current contract, although Barnes did not have that number in front of him.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.