By one vote, the Altoona Area School Board awarded a bid for a new districtwide landline phone system at a cost not to exceed $547,940.
The district's current phone system is nine years old and faulty, district administrators said.
The board voted 5-4 to approve the administration's recommendation to choose United Datacom Networks Inc. (UDNI) from among two other bidders for purchasing and installing a new phone system. The two other bidding companies were Advent Communications and Dagostino.
UDNI's bid won the approval of President Maryann Joyce Bistline, Vice President Tim Lucas, John Klingeman, Ron Johnston and John Donley. Voting against awarding the bid was Sharon Bream, Judith Berryman, Cheryl Rupp and Dick Lockard.
Information on the need for a new system has been given by administrators weeks prior to the Monday night vote.
However, some board members still had questions and needed more time to look at the proposals that were put in front of board members for the first time on Monday.
"We are spending a lot of money ... and I don't like information being put out here, and I have to make a decision on spending half a million dollars with two minutes to look at it," Bream said. "And I don't like this vendor."
She believes the current phone system, installed in 2005, should not be obsolete yet. Bream said she and other members asked some questions about replacing the phone system in committee meetings at the start of August.
Bream said those questions included "'What do we have to replace? Can we use the same phones, can someone else bid on that? 'And can we just replace the heart of the system and still use the same phones?'"
Bream said the board never got those answers.
"This is what we get, (three proposals) and in a couple minutes we're supposed to vote 'yes,'" she said.
Prior to voting, Donley asked what the warranty would be on the new system.
"Five years - typical standard warranty," Buildings and Grounds Director Jeff Hostler said.
Donley was astounded that the current system lasted nine years. And he said a new system "will ensure that if something happens in a classroom, we don't have to wait for somebody to come and fix (a phone problem). To me, this is definitely something we need to do. It is a safety issue. Although it seems like a lot of money, it's an insurance policy to ensure the health and safety of our students."
Lucas said he agreed.
"In addition to the safety issue, it's a communication issue with the public and with parents," he said. "The district receives 180,000 phone calls per month."