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Give Contel Phone Pact, County Officials Say

Times Staff Writer

A multimillion-dollar internal telephone system sought by San Diego County since a scandal forced cancellation of an earlier contract in 1983 should be installed by Contel Page Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va., top county officials recommended Wednesday.

Richard Jacobsen, deputy chief administrative officer, said the county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to review his recommendation at a special meeting Dec. 19.

Jacobsen declined to release figures on the Contel Page contract Wednesday, but earlier estimates pegged the cost of the system at $12 million to $15 million to purchase, and a total of $30 million in current dollars to operate for the next 10 years.

Jacobsen has been negotiating with Contel Page, AT&T; Information Systems and Pacific Bell since August, when he and a consultant hired by the county suggested that Contel should get the contract. After objections from the other two firms, the Board of Supervisors ordered that all three companies be allowed to negotiate with the county.

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Pacific Bell officials said Wednesday they intended to argue against the Contel bid at the special meeting.

“This is a grave disappointment to Pacific Bell and should be to the citizens of the county,” Lincoln Ward, Pacific Bell’s vice president for San Diego, said in a prepared statement.

Ward argues that because the county’s contract with Contel would take away services that now provide revenue for Pacific Bell, the change will force the company to raise telephone rates for county residents and businesses. Pacific Bell is offering a system that would only be partially owned by the county, not fully owned as county officials had wanted.

George Gorton, Contel’s spokesman in San Diego, said the county should not take Pacific Bell’s costs and revenue into consideration in granting the contract.

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“I would say that if what Mr. Ward is suggesting (is) that the county taxpayers pay more so that Pacific Bell customer could pay less, I don’t think the trade-off is a very reasonable one,” Gorton said. “It’s just not reasonable to ask government to subsidize a business which needs to become more competitive.”

Wednesday’s action marked the latest step in a process begun in January, 1983, when the county canceled its $24.5-million contract with Anaheim-based Telink Inc. amid what Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller called “the most massive fraud and public corruption scheme ever committed against the County of San Diego.”


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