Courthouse phone outages disrupt offices, court, juries
Elected officials and employees through the Morgan County Courthouse were fuming last week when the building’s phone system once again shut down during business hours.
Offices weren’t able to make or receive phone calls or faxes for multiple hours.
The problem has been pinned down by carrier FiberNet (now part of nTelos) as a problem with the system’s circuits, said Dave McDonald, courthouse technology coordinator.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Administrator Jody McClintock.
She urged county officials to terminate their contract with FiberNet under their quality guarantee clause.
McClintock said she has had poor service from the company since the county moved into the new courthouse.
In May, she requested two new phone lines to service the fire alarm system in the Sheriff’s Department, and still doesn’t have the lines.
Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin said it seems that her office is without phone lines at least once per week.
“And we’re not told when they’re back up. We don’t know until the phone starts ringing,” McLaughlin told the commissioners.
“It seems like every time it rains, the circuit goes down,” said McDonald.
He and McClintock said the courthouse has had five or six phone outages in less than two months. Sometimes the phones are down for just a half hour, sometimes longer, they said.
“There’s never any time when it should be out,” said McDonald.
The county pays roughly $1,000 for its phone service monthly.
County officials discussed the special impact the outages have on the judicial offices and court system. Potential jurors told to call in for court assignments have often been unable to reach the automated system, worrying court officials that they won’t have enough jurors to serve if the need arises.
Probation officials were also very worried about the loss of phone service, and its effect on their ability to supervise offenders.
Officials decided to write an official letter to FiberNet, demanding a resolution to the phone trouble within 10 days. If the problem isn’t fixed by then, officials discussed putting the phone service out for bid again to seek a new carrier.
Office heads also asked McDonald and McClintock to notify all of the offices when they knew the phones were down, and again when the service was resumed.
McDonald said the courthouse’s new intranet, an internal website for the county government, could be used to post that information to everyone.