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Weekend phone failure serves as a reminder for county

January 25, 2019

MADISON — It’s time to sign the contracts and get the work completed.

That was the message presented Wednesday to the Madison County commissioners, who have been researching various companies and options for fiber internet and phone packages for the courthouse.

Jon Downey, an investigator with the county sheriff’s office, said the county should be making the change as quickly as possible after a phone failure that took place over the weekend.

Downey, who has been assisting the county with technology issues in recent years, said the county’s phone system went down for 26 hours.

“Saturday afternoon, our phone system went down because the T-1 (fiber line) went down,” Downey said.

Among other consequences of the failure was that individuals were unable to communicate with the 454- prefix, which greatly impacted the sheriff’s department.

“The only way that we could receive a call was through 911 or some cell phones that happened to be back in dispatch,” Downey said.

The phone company was contacted, but representatives said it was too dangerous Saturday evening because of weather conditions to drive from Columbus to Madison to work on the problem.

The phone company sent a representative to Madison on Sunday morning, initially telling the county it was the courthouse’s problem, Downey said. But Dick Day, a computer specialist helps the county on a part-time basis, and another individual reviewed the situation and determined the problem was not within the courthouse.

After lots of troubleshooting, it was discovered that the company had done some updating recently to accommodate a large Madison employer. When that happened, it impacted and caused problems with the courthouse’s system.

Downey and commissioners agreed that being without phone service for so long “was unacceptable.”

Downey said had the situation occurred on a weekday when all the courthouse offices were in use, the situation would have been much worse.

One obvious solution would be for the county to get a new fiber and phone system in place, Downey said. “We need to get moving on this thing,” he said. “We should have done this six months ago.”

Commissioners were scheduled to meet later Wednesday with representatives from Stealth Broadband of Blair, which has an office in Norfolk and has prepared some proposals for the county to consider.

Commissioner Christian Ohl said there are a few issues that still need to be worked out, including possibly getting a new switchboard with the phone system.

Ohl said he hopes the contracts can be worked out and brought to the next meeting for consideration. And because there could be some “hiccups” during the switch, the county will work with the media so the public will know when the switch is taking place, he said.

Ron Schmidt, chairman of the county board, said he would like to apologize that it has taken this long for the county to resolve its phone issues.

Commissioner Troy Uhlir said he was to meet with representatives of Stealth on Wednesday afternoon to go over the concerns that have been raised so they can be corrected when the new system is implemented.

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