published Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Chattanooga overpaying its phone bill

Chattanooga is likely overpaying $140,000 a year for the city's phone bill because of an AT&T contract that is two decades old, a city audit revealed.

City Auditor Stan Sewell briefed the City Council on Tuesday on the audit that showed the city was operating on a month-to-month contract with AT&T that charges twice the current rate for such services and that the city is paying almost $10,000 a year for phone lines that aren't being used.

Also in June 2013, the city's IT Department renewed a contract with AT&T, but used the old rates that are more than double what is typically charged. The decision was made without council approval, which is required.

Brent Goldberg, the city's deputy chief operating officer, told the council that such a mistake won't happen again because the mayor's office has taken steps to ensure the contract is bid on a regular basis. The city's purchasing department will now monitor the contracts, he said.

Also city officials plan to meet with AT&T to negotiate a new contract to eliminate the extra costs, but officials might eventually eliminate a contract with the phone company altogether. The city's IT Department is working on a new voice over IP system that will use the Internet instead of telephone lines. This means officials said that the city is considering whether to extend its contract with EPB, the city-owned utility company that already provides Internet services.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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