The Walworth County Board approved Tuesday reallocating $1 million to overhaul the county’s outdated phone system.
The move comes after construction on a new health and human services building is expected to land under budget.
Construction on the building was green-lighted at a public works committee meeting in June, when the county accepted a bid almost $4 million below its budget. The initial construction budget for the new 77,500-square-foot building was $18.8 million, and the approved bid came in at $14.9 million.
Because of the lower-than-expected bid, the public works and finance committees Tuesday afternoon approved the $1 million fund transfer. County Administrator Dave Bretl said the move will allow the county to maintain a sizeable contingency fund for construction and simultaneously replace the county’s almost 15-year-old phone system.
The county board unanimously approved the measure Tuesday afternoon shortly after the joint committee meeting.
Much of the reason the money was reassigned is because the county’s phone switch, or hub, is in the existing health and human services building. Once construction is completed on the new building in December 2019, the old building will either be shuttered or leased.
While the phone switch could be moved to another building—costing about $250,000—John Orr, the county's IT director, said that would have been inefficient because the phone system is outdated and in need of replacement.
Orr said the county had planned to designate about $750,000 for a new phone system in its 2020 or 2021 budget. But additional expenses, such as installing new fiber-optic lines and rewiring the Walworth County’s Sheriff’s Office building, were forecast for budgets farther down the road. Orr said the county decided to fulfill all expenses at once.
During the meeting Tuesday, Bretl told members the decision needed to be made quickly because ground already has been broken on the new building, and its skeleton will be built quickly.
Bretl noted the money is being reallocated because the phone switch will be housed in the new health and human services building. He said the county would not otherwise transfer unused funds.
“This isn’t the case where we save money on a bid and we’re going out and looking for ways to spend it,” he said.