Representatives from Homewav spoke at the Administrative Services Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 13, attempting to counter a presentation made by representative from Reliance Connect at the previous Grand Forks County Commission meeting.
Both companies previously submitted proposals and are vying to become the Grand Forks County Correctional Center’s new phone system provider. A decision will not be made until the County Commission meeting on July 20.
Homewav operates in one county in North Dakota – the Williams County Correctional Facility. Reliance Telephone President Dave Hangsleben was there to emphasize that his company operates in every county in North Dakota except for two – one of them being Williams County.
“We have 165 counties in the bi-state area,” Hangsleben said. “On top of that, we license their technology to hundreds of other jails through three other inmate phone providers.”
Grand Forks County Correctional Center Administrator Bret Burkholder spoke toward the end of the meeting about the impending decision.
“We sat through 18 hours of demonstrations from 10 vendors looking at their products on site,” Burkholder said. “From that, we also reviewed every one of their peaks (in performance).”
Burkholder continued by handing out multiple sheets of paper to each commissioner outlining why Homewav was the preferred choice. He made sure it was known that he did not take the decision to recommend Homewav lightly given the history Grand Forks County has with Reliance Telephone.
“We recognize that we've been with reliance for 30 years,” Burkholder said. “I’ve been with Reliance for 30 years plus. I know Reliance well. We had to push all of that aside and base it just on the facts from the demonstrations.”
The committee looked at a side-by-side comparison of the two companies and how they measured up – Reliance the incumbent and Homewav the challenger. Burkholer concluded that Homewav was solidly the best choice. He highlighted how much commission is made by the phone system and how much the correctional center is paying
The last page included was a reference check from Williams County Correctional Center. It switched from Reliance to Homewav 18 months ago.
“If you look at the comments in there, you'll see they had Reliance for many years as well,” Burkholder said. “What they had to say is that Homewav’s tech is far more advanced. It’s superior. The video visitation program is much more advanced for the inmates and their loved ones… It is nothing against Reliance. Reliance has served us well for many, many years.”
However, when pressed about whether he would rank Grand Forks County Correctional Facility's recent experience with Reliance as very "satisfied," "satisfied" or "failed," Burkholder was reluctant to make any disparaging remarks.
“They are very good at what they do, and there’s no doubt about it in my mind.” Burkholder said. “Whether or not they’re the best… I don’t know that, either. They definitely did not fail.”