The Hancock County commissioners approved a resolution Thursday to buy and install a new phone system for county buildings.
A five-year service agreement with TSC Communications of Wapakoneta will cost about $566,000, including about $185,000 for equipment.
The county is replacing an analog system with a digital system.
The county information technology department recommended TSC after six bids were received Feb. 20.
The Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, phone system will be installed this year. VoIP enables individuals to use the internet as the transmission medium for telephone calls.
The system will replace the countys 31-year-old analog phone system, with service currently provided by AT&T. It includes 296 handsets and 322 phone lines.
By the end of September, AT&Ts contract with the county ends. The cost to continue that contract would increase by $4,000 to $6,000, to about $90,000 monthly, Commissioner President Brian Robertson said.
The cost estimates for the new phone system were $464,340 for a five-year service contract and $359,665 for equipment. If the bids had come in that high, the county would not have been able to afford the upgrade, Robertson said.
The county has been discussing the issue for several years.
The new phone system will benefit from the fiber loop project involving the city schools, county government and city government offices, too.
Work on the fiber loop project is expected to be finished this spring. The countys share of that work will be $388,000.

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