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County seeks savings with new cellphone carrier
Paramedics to train at Children's Healthcare

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

All cell phones, and wireless communication devices used by the county soon will be operated through Verizon Wireless, thanks to a recent decision by the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.

The move is expected to save the county $130,889 a year over contracting with Sprint Nextel, the current wireless provider for many of the county's cell phones.

The board voted unanimously this week to give Verizon Wireless all of the county's cellular communication business. A recent quote from Sprint Nextel revealed that the county would be paying for 114,145 in overage minutes per month, at a rate of 25 cents to 30 cents per minute, if it contracted all of its services through Sprint Nextel.

The county's estimated cost per month with Verizon is $48,949.48, compared to $59,856.97 with Sprint. The decision to change "makes sense" for the county, said Commissioner Michael Edmondson.

"The county, like any other cell phone subscriber, wants to get the best value on their wireless service, as well as get the best quality of service," Edmondson said. "Any opportunity for the county to save money during these economically challenging times is worth taking a look at.

"[The] Transportation and Development [Department] brought it forth, IT [the Information Technology Department] had studied it, and public safety had tested it," he said.

In addition to saving $10,907.49 a month with Verizon Wireless, the company has agreed to replace all of the county's wireless equipment with new equipment every 10 months, a new feature to the county's wireless contract.

Clayton County Fire Chief and Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas said the county currently owns Sprint and Verizon cell phones. However, he believes switching to the one provider will simplify maintenance, and give the county the ability to leverage better savings.

"There was a high level of concurrence that this was the best move," Cohilas said. "We won't have to maintain technical expertise on two different phones over two different systems. Our IT department can better maintain repairs on units. We can also negotiate better rates. When somebody can get all of your business, instead of half of your business, they are more willing to negotiate."

In other action, the board voted to enter into an agreement with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, through which Clayton County paramedics will be able to receive clinical training at the hospital. Cohilas said the training is aimed at teaching paramedics how to respond more effectively to child victims.

"Over the years, there has been a growing number of calls for pediatric care," Cohilas said. "They're smaller people. A pediatric patient can crash on you much quicker, so our paramedics have to be much more alert. We have gotten clinical training at other hospitals, but this is a unique opportunity that we thought we should take advantage of."

Cohilas said that at no cost to the county, Clayton County paramedics will be able to train with medical professionals at the hospital about managing the airwaves of choking, or unconscious children, as well as administering medicines at the correct dosages, according to a victim's body weight.

"Our paramedics are doing things in the field that, when I started my career, were preserved only for doctors," Cohilas said. "It's going to take our already excellent training, and skill level of our department, to a totally different level."