Kenner — The Kenner City Council has approved a switch in the city’s Internet and phone service that will vastly improve efficiency and save the city’s coffers about $40,000 annually, said Telecommunications and Information Technology Director Valerie Waguespack.

Waguespack convinced the council Thursday to agree to six service agreements with TW Telecom Holdings Inc., a division of Time Warner, to provide Internet, telephone and long-distance telephone.

The city will spend about $148,000 on the new services compared to the roughly $188,000 it spent under its previous mishmash of plans. Council members unanimously agreed to a three-year contract, and service will begin in June.

The city is not only getting a lower price, Waguespack said; it’s getting much better service that will allow the city to finally move some of its operations out of the digital dark ages. That improvement is largely due to TW Telecom offering the city more bandwidth, she said.

Increased bandwidth will allow the city to add Internet connections at 14 different fire stations and gymnasiums. In addition, certain online services, like property tax and ticket payments, which the city contracts with a third party to maintain, can be moved in-house for additional savings. Waguespack said that when she examined the new deal, it just made more sense.

“What we were paying AT&T for is a fraction of what we will be receiving (with TW Telecom),” Waguespack said.

The change will have a big impact on operations in the city’s recreation department. City officials previously avoided getting individual service contracts at city gymnasiums because of concerns that they would not be able to be monitored centrally and there could be liability issues.

That meant that a city employee had to manually collect and deliver time cards and memos to the gymnasiums. That information then had to be manually entered into the city’s system at Kenner City Hall.

Now all of that can be handled online and monitored, Waguespack said. Recreation Director Kenneth Marroccoli said his department has had computers to place at the gymnasiums for some time but never installed them because without Internet connections they would be virtually useless.

With the new agreements, he will start installing those computers this year.

“We’re ecstatic this is happening,” Marroccoli said.

Waguespack told the council that the new system will allow an electronic timecard system to be used that will allow the city to more closely monitor employees work habits.

It also has the ability to allow security cameras at different facilities to be centrally monitored and could be used to run lights and air conditioning from one location as well.

Council members Joe Stagni and Maria Defrancesch said it’s obvious the new deal is an upgrade for the city and commended Waguespack for seeking out the change in provider.

Waguespack made the change after AT&T refused to honor a previous pricing agreement the city had with Bell South, and the city was watching its monthly bills steadily increase. Stagni asked whether the city had addressed a potential problem with calls to 911 from city phones not showing the exact location where the call originated, and Waguespack said they are ironing out that glitch.

“The benefits to the fire and recreation departments are outstanding,” Stagni said about the deal.

Councilwoman Michelle Branigan said it’s surprising that in these modern times the city still had someone dedicated to collecting paperwork manually from different locations. Defrancesch added that having computers without having a way to connect them to the Internet is pretty pointless.

“It’s nice to have a computer, but it really doesn’t have much value if it’s not connected,” she said.