County to upgrade computer, phone systems

ALPENA – The Alpena County Board of Commissioners knows to best serve its residents and help workers be able to do their job efficiently staying current on technology upgrades is important. Over the course of the next several months the county annex building and the courthouse are going to be undergoing a sweeping modification project that will see 18 new computers and a new phone system installed.

During last week’s finance committee meeting the commissioners voted to recommend to the full board that $18,777 be spent to purchase the new computers and another $90,000 for the new phone system. The actual cost of the new phone system is $105,000, but the City of Alpena will pick up the remainder of the cost for the phone system because the county also provides some phone services. IT Director Eric Vanderveer said swapping out the old computers is something the county does on a cycle.

“We have a policy that sets the rotation for the change of computers for the departments. Some of the computers are between five years and seven years old and they need to be replaced,” Vanderveer said. “We didn’t buy really large computers, but ones that are just enough to handle each department’s software, day-to-day operations and good enough so they will still be reasonably good five years from now.”

As the computers age it requires more work for the user, as well as the IT department, who is charged with maintaining and repairing the equipment. Vanderveer said the older the computers get the more time needed to keep them operating efficiently.

“When they get old they start to get slow and people start to complain and want them fixed,” Vanderveer said. “We’ll go in and do a little work to try to make them go fast as possible. We do spend time on the old ones, so that is another reason we look to replace them.”

Vanderveer said the IT department will install the computers as quickly as possible, so the employee and customer will feel as little negative effect as possible. He said it appears there won’t need to be any computer purchases next year, unless something unexpected comes about.

The installation of the new phone system is more costly, but more overdue. Vanderveer said the new phone system will be more dependable and have features that can link county departments and employees together with a single push of a button, even when working in different buildings.

“The equipment for the phone system is really old and the company that made it doesn’t even exist any more,” Vanderveer said. “It will be all connect, so let’s say there is some sort of issue with the county, we can press a button and a page will go out to every single phone in our network. Then installation should start in the beginning of December and hopefully just before Christmas everything should be in and all set.”

Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said the phones needed to be replaced for some time and now it has gotten to then point where action can’t be delayed further.

“We have discussed getting a new phone system for the last three years at budget,” Van Wormer said. “We need them. Our phones are very, very old and we also needed to upgrade for security reasons. We thought we budgeted enough for it, but we were short, but we have an old equipment replacement line and we will be able to take it from there to make up the difference.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at