County employees picking BlackBerries to carry out their communications

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

BlackBerries may be in the future for some Rowan County employees.

And they aren’t the kind that end up in cobblers.

The new style BlackBerry combines the features of a cell phone and a mobile computer. They are now being tested by employees in different areas and the county’s Information Technology Department.

County Manager Bill Cowan recently updated the Rowan County Board of Commissioners on the potential use of BlackBerries.

Cowan said usage of the BlackBerry device will be a part of a comprehensive phone policy which will be presented to commissioners next month.

Cowan said the county currently has no policy dealing with cell phones or their usage.

Various departments issue cell phones to some employees and the Sheriff’s Department issues phones to many of the deputies.

County staff has checked with several counties to obtain copies of their policies.

The policy under study would provide minimal reimbursement for some employees if they have to use their own personal phone for county business. Other employees who require nearly continuous use of cell phones would continue to have a county phone.

Rob Robinson, the county’s director of telecommunications, said the county has about 50 Nextels, which operate both as a cell phone and a radio. Most of those are assigned to building inspection and maintenance staff.

Robinson estimated that the county has about 80 cell phones, with many assigned to the Department of Social Services.

Like a family on a budget, Robinson said the county has taken advantage of special deals on pool plans. “We buy one phone, get a large pool of minutes and then bring two or three more phones on and share the time.”

Robinson said the plan has worked well. Where most cell phones cost around $55 each, the county averages $29 apiece.

The county selected Sprint because Sprint has more cell coverage of the county than any other company.

The advantage of the BlackBerry is having the ability to send and receive e-mail. “The manager is looking at it. Not everybody needs one,” said Robinson, adding that it has advantages for those who need “to carry your office with you.”