County phone system fried by lighting

Published 7:33 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Most, if not all of, the Dallas County Courthouse and Annex have been without voicemail for more than a month after lightning fried the old system.

The county commission declared the problem an emergency last month and discussed making repairs Monday. The system was damaged by thunderstorms that rolled through the area April 8.

County administrator Barbara Harrell told the county commission the loss of voicemail is having a serious impact on day-to-day operations.

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“The loss of the voicemail system due to lightning damage … is effecting public health, public safety, day-to-day operations of the county and the loss of vital information from the Secret Witness Hotline in helping to fight crime,” Harrell said. “We need to get this voicemail system as soon as possible.”

Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman Jr. wrote the commissioners a letter this week describing the effect not having voicemail is having on law enforcement.

“We are in desperate need for the voicemail system being acquired again. This is critical to this department to help protect the safety of the citizens of Dallas County as well as receiving information,” Huffman wrote.

Declaring the loss of voicemail an emergency allows the county to hire a company to fix the problem without having to take the additional time to advertise bids.

County Commission Vice Chairman Roy Moore said at least two companies, AT&T as well as Collins Communication out of Demopolis, would both bid on replacing the system.

“We have no voicemail when people call. There is no phone system [to leave a message]. It’s really needed,” Moore said.

To ensure some competition, state law does require at least two bids in an emergency. The bids will be opened Monday at the Dallas County Courthouse Annex.