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Franklin Co. to upgrade computer system

September 12, 2000

Franklin Co. to upgrade computer system



By DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The information superhighway between Franklin County offices would have more lanes and a higher speed limit under a plan to update the county's Wide Area Network, or WAN system.

The County Commissioners Tuesday opened three bids for one-time installation costs and annual operations costs for the WAN system. The commissioners will meet Tuesday, Oct. 3, to decide whether to award a contract or reject the bids.

The low bid of $17,428 was submitted by Comcast Cable Communications of Philadelphia for a dedicated fiber-optic line connecting county offices at four locations.

Sprint telecommunications submitted a $43,560 bid for a fiber-optic connection and Digital Sunrise of Chambersburg submitted a $75,304 bid for wireless system.

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"It's very apparent these are all going to require a significant amount of study," Commissioner Bob Thomas said of the bids, which contain a number of variables.

County Director of Information Systems Robert Mahoney will review the proposals over the next three weeks and make a recommendation to the commissioners.

The county has an existing Wide Area Network connecting the courthouse, the administrative annex two blocks away, the prison, Franklin County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the Human Services Building - all just outside Chambersburg on county-owned property on Franklin Farm Lane. The upgraded system would also bring the County Probation Department on Walker Road into the network.

Mahoney said district justice offices in Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Greencastle, Mercersburg and Pleasant Hall could later be added to the network.

The biggest plus, however, would be bandwidth, increasing the amount of e-mail and other traffic the system could bear at any one time. The existing system has 1.5 megabytes, but the upgrade would expand that to 10 megabytes, according to Mahoney.

About a year ago the Probation Department received a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant for video arraignments between the prison and courthouse. That system isn't in place yet, but with the existing network a video teleconference would take up almost all the system's bandwidth, Mahoney said.

Because that would shut down the rest of the system, Mahoney said the county pays to use outside telephone lines for video conferences between offices or with other governmental agencies.

Thomas said video conferencing between offices is the wave of the future but "uses a truckload of bandwidth."

Over the past two years the county has been rewiring its buildings with fiber optics to accommodate whatever system it will choose to upgrade the network. Mahoney said that was done at a cost of approximately $40,000.

The prison was the latest building to go online with the system, he said.

Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said the county's management plan is "one that emphasizes technology that will enhance communications." He said the county has come a long way toward that end since he took office in 1996.

"The day I took office the best computer I had to run a $60 million business was a Tandy TRS-80," Elliott said.

"People are collecting those now," Mahoney said of those technological antiques.

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