Washington’s communication department has found a way to save money on its costly AT&T bill.

Communications Director Lisa Moffitt presented plans Monday evening at the city’s administration meeting that would reduce the monthly bill by thousands of dollars.

The council backed one of her ideas for instant savings, and decided to keep looking at another for further down the road.

The initial savings will come from cutting the AT&T bill. Moffitt said the city’s expenses for communications services with AT&T is very high and she has been looking at ways to lower that number.

Before the meeting even began, Moffitt had plans in motion to reduce costs. She said she discovered that storing some of the city’s transmitters at the fire department headquarters and not the public safety building costs the city about $56,000 annually.

The bulk of the transmitters are already at the public safety building, and Moffitt said moving the rest wouldn’t impact coverage or performance. She said crews are supposed to be in next week and should have the equipment moved by Thursday, April 6.

It is expected to cost close to $1,000 to move and some additional money to modify the city’s FCC license.

Moffit said the city could save an additional $145,000 by switching from an analogue-based system to a new IP-based solution.

The new IP system has a monthly fee of $4,900, but would lead to savings of just over $12,000 a month. To make the switch, the city has to enter into a three-year contract with AT&T.

Moffitt was asked what the time line was for the switch.

“How soon do you guys want to start saving money?” she said.

City Administrator Jim Briggs said he would advise the council to direct Moffitt to proceed and get a contract ready for City Attorney Mark Piontek to review. The council agreed and directed Moffitt to pursue the deal.

The council will have to vote on a contract at a future meeting.

The board also directed Moffitt to discuss purchasing console upgrades for the dispatching center. The city has $627,000 budgeted for new consoles and Moffitt said the new equipment would be needed.

MOSWIN

The AT&T savings Moffitt discussed could happen right away, but she also presented a plan for future savings.

Late last year the city entered into an agreement with the Missouri Department of Public Safety to use the Crestview water tower for a new communications antenna.

The antenna will be installed atop the tower to improve coverage in northern Franklin County for the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network (MOSWIN) system.

The MOSWIN system allows multiple agencies and jurisdictions to communicate throughout the state on the same network. The Missouri State Highway Patrol is a primary user of the system.

Under the lease agreement, the state will pay the city $15,000 a year to use the tower and building at the base of the tower for the communications antenna and a transmitter and associated communications equipment.

A MOSWIN tower in Washington would not only fill a coverage “gap” for the state system, it also could be a benefit to Washington in upgrading the local emergency communications system.

Moffitt said once the system is up and running, the city could jump on board and eliminate AT&T fees altogether. The MOSWIN option would have yearly fees of close to $50,000, she said. The downside is the costly initial outlay.

The project is not currently in the city’s budget, but Moffitt said it would cost an estimated $775,000 to hook up to the system. The cost would be for equipment and upgrades — a bulk of the expense would go toward replacing every single radio used by police and fire personnel.

Moffitt said the city doesn’t have to join up with MOSWIN now or even in the future. She said it could be something that the city decides not to pursue or it could be something that is phased in over time.

The council took no action on the MOSWIN option.