Costly chairs put Bucks officials on the hot seat

Posted: November 22, 2013

DOYLESTOWN Bucks County is buying new chairs for its emergency call-center operators - and the price tag nearly had people jumping out of theirs.

At its meeting Wednesday, the county commissioners said they would spend $37,000 for 38 new chairs for its 911 center - or about $970 each.

"Is there a massage feature on them?" one incredulous audience member yelled, while others grumbled about whether the chairs included features like phones.

Peter Ference, the county's director of emergency communications, explained that the chairs need to be durable - since they are occupied 24 hours a day - and ergonomically supportive, since each operator's shift is 12 hours.

The county also asked that the chairs be made in the United States, according to its bid request, and the three chair models listed as examples all had steel frames and promised to withstand heavy-duty usage.

"It's not like your lounge chair in your family room," Commission Chairman Rob Loughery told the crowd.

He also noted that the $37,000 quote for the chairs - from contractor CR Solutions in Montgomery County - was the lowest qualifying bid of six that met the county's specifications. The highest bidder wanted more than $50,000.

Montgomery County officials paid about $1,000 per chair for its 911 operators about five years ago, said communications director Frank Custer.

"It's really an investment," Custer said, adding that the role of emergency operators is important. "We need to keep them alert and comfortable."

The commissioners agreed. They unanimously approved the new chairs.

609-217-8305 @cs_palmer

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