Town Approves Less Costly Contract for Emergency Outcall Services

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The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday approved a yearlong contract with a Washington, D.C.-based company that provides outcall services used by local emergency response officials.

The contract with Blackboard Connect had risen to a cost of about $17,500 per year and municipal officials after getting quotes from different vendors were able to negotiate it down to half that rate, according to Chris Kaiser, director of Information Technology for the town.

“We kind of realized and recognized that it was a little overpayment for services,” Kaiser told the selectmen at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall.

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams voted 3-0 in favor of the $8,750 contract. 

At the moment, police, firefighters, EMTs and the New Canaan Office of Emergency Management have used the system to issue calls to those who have volunteered their contact information. The technology can be used in more ways and various types of outreach, Kaiser said, including for surveys or in reaching employees at times when Town Hall may be closed.

Kaiser noted that the town had reached out to the New Canaan school district to find out whether cost-savings may be realized by working together to negotiate a better rate from Blackboard Connect. 

“They are moving off in a different direction,” Kaiser said.

When Williams asked specifically whether the town had considered “combining forces with the schools” with respect to Blackboard Connect, Kaiser said, “Absolutely.”

“We tried to but I was told that they had different preferences,” Kaiser said.

Williams said, “No further comment necessary.”

Asked about the matter, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said in an email that the district is no longer using Blackbaord.

“After two years of research, we began using a new system this year (School Messenger) that integrates very well with our PowerSchool student information system,” Luizzi said.

“The new system is fully integrated into PowerSchool, which facilitates communications and ensures up to date contact information. We used BlackBoard for many years, but it does not have the same level of functionality as our new system. Additionally, we’re saving money with the new system, since it is significantly less expensive than BlackBoard. While BlackBoard may be the right choice for the town, it was not the right choice for us given the integration, feature set, and cost of School Messenger.”

Kaiser said that Blackboard Connect has geo-mapping capabilities that can be used to get messages directly to locals in specifics areas. Williams noted that the technology could be used in cases of missing people. 

Moynihan said that New Canaan’s current system is dependent on a voluntary signup system and that it’s important to secure a contact email or cellphone number for new arrivals for emergencies.

“So we are working on getting to the point where every person in town has a contact,” Moyinhan said. “We are working on how to make that happen.”

Williams said the renegotiated contract with Blackboard Connect is a positive for the town. “We are getting better technology at half the price,” he said.

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