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Courthouse phones still on the fritz
by Jason Collins
Jul 31, 2014 | 451 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
County Commissioner Carlos Salazar places his hands over his head as he reads through paperwork during Monday’s court meeting. Salazar apologized during the meeting for comments made about Time Warner during the last meeting saying that the court was misled that this company was  the cause of the county’s phone problems.
County Commissioner Carlos Salazar places his hands over his head as he reads through paperwork during Monday’s court meeting. Salazar apologized during the meeting for comments made about Time Warner during the last meeting saying that the court was misled that this company was the cause of the county’s phone problems.
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County Judge David Silva raises questions and concerns about the state of the county’s phone system.
County Judge David Silva raises questions and concerns about the state of the county’s phone system.
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George Pearson, with IT Pit Crew, talks to commissioners Monday giving them options that will fix their new phone system.
George Pearson, with IT Pit Crew, talks to commissioners Monday giving them options that will fix their new phone system.
slideshow
BEEVILLE – Disconnects and garbled audio are just part of the problem the county is facing as it wrestles with phone system that doesn’t allow incoming or outgoing calls.

Last week, the problem was blamed on Time Warner Cable and slow speeds.

That turns out to be false — at least according to a report provided by George Pearson, president of Information Technologist Pit Crew out of Corpus Christi.

Commissioner Carlos Salazar, during the meeting, said, “I want to apologize to Time Warner for what I said that came out in the paper that they had sorry service.

“We had someone that gave us information that it was their fault.”

For weeks now, or possibly longer, county employees have had to struggle with a digital phone system, hosted through WaveSpeed, that only works periodically. This comes after a near countywide upgrade from a regular phone system to an all digital system.

At fault now, it seems, is that the server and main lines are housed by WaveSpeed in San Jose, California.

Salazar said,

“The reason we went to it is we were guaranteed, and we did save money. Apparently, we are getting what we paid for.

“We are saving money, but we are getting lousy service.

“What makes us look worse, obviously, is the guy that recommended this is affiliated to the company that is providing the service.”

Mike Knight, county attorney, said that Craig Oliver, head of the county’s computer department, told commissioners of his affiliation up front.

“He is affiliated with WaveSpeed,” Knight said. “He filed the appropriate disclosures when this thing was first put forward.”

Throughout the meeting, the audience could be heard grumbling—occasionally demanding that the county leaders find a quick solution to the problem.

Knight, whose office still has its old analog line of 361-3237, said, “I have a vested interest as a department head and as a citizen in making sure we have a phone system that works and making sure that we are able to provide the service that is expected of us.”

Knight suggested meeting again Friday to discuss the problem further and find out how much it would cost to get it fixed.

“By that time we will have a better grasp on what it is going to cost and a time frame,” he said.

This didn’t seem to sit well with some of the audience though.

Zenaida Silva, district clerk, pleaded, “Give us a solution today. Please give us some type of temporary cell numbers to each office so that we can have contact with the people that put us into office.

“It is a very trying time for us.

“It is really very stressful with people cussing you out.

“You go to H-E-B or Walmart, and people tell you, ‘How come you don’t answer your phone? Don’t you work?’”

Judge David Silva said that this is also affecting the court system.

“We had a jury today, and they could not call in,” Silva said.

The county has three solutions to fixing the problem—one of which involves going back to the old phone system.

“I don’t know which is the most cost effective, but the people here want it fixed two days ago...

“I don’t know how much money we are talking about.

“We are going to have to do something immediately.

“We cannot wait 30 days.

“I don’t know which way we are going to go, and I don’t have a particular preference, but we need to fix it as quickly as possible.”

Multiple audience members pleaded with the county to return their old numbers. One problem arose though—they no longer had the phones for it.

That didn’t stop the pleas though.

Bailiff Bill Lazenby said, “If we go back to the old phones, we would not have that long menu that a lot of older people don’t like.”

Oliver was on vacation this week and not at the meeting to offer his opinions.

Pearson, however, was asked to give the court a quote on what it would take to bring the necessary server and lines inhouse as opposed to having them hosted in California.

Salazar said, “I hate to say this, but I don’t want to depend on our IT person to fix this anymore.”

Commissioner Ken Haggard said that he understood it would take a few days for Pearson to get a dollar amount back to the court.

“They didn’t come here to sell a product.

“I know we are throwing them a lot of questions.

“We still have to take care of the public.

“Speed is of the essence, but we still need to stay legal and within our boundaries.”

The county is currently in a contract with WaveSpeed to provide the VoIP telephone system.

Knight said, “We have a contract for $2,500 a month for the service.

“Just because we have one problem doesn’t mean we need to rush off and create another problem while we are trying to fix the old problem.”

Knight reminded that the county has a significant investment in the system and quality components.

“We have good hardware,” he said. “We are just having implementation problems.”

Commissioner Dennis DeWitt said, “There are other counties on the same system, and they aren’t having any problems at all.”

Silva said, “Nobody anticipated having these kinds of problems, but we are here now, and we have to deal with it.”

The meeting Friday at 9 a.m. lists not only discussion of the phone system but also the contract with WaveSpeed.

“There are some legal things we that we need to look at and address,” Silva said.

During their prior meeting, the court was told by Oliver that the problem was with Time Warner Cable and an inconsistent data speed.

Pearson said that this isn’t the true problem. The problem is that with the telephone server now in California—it was once housed in Dallas—the data leaves the Time Warner network, and it is out of their hands.

“Once it is out on the Internet, there is no guarantee,” Pearson said. “They are not going to guarantee to provide you service to San Jose.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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