But they seem to have it backwards from what the company intended.
“We have had a lot of issues here on our phone systems,” said Commissioner Carlos Salazar. “We have had a lot of concerned people and department heads.”
The problem — the county’s new digital phone system has been flaky at best and dead at worst the last couple of weeks. It relies on the Time Warner cable Internet to operate.
While several people spoke during Monday’s commissioners court meeting, it was county employee Nickelle Gonzales who summed up the situation.
“(The public is) cussing us out,” she said. “They are blaming all of the elected officials. They want everybody fired.”
Craig Oliver, who heads the county’s IT department, said that he has been working to determine the problem and has isolated it to the lines of Time Warner.
“As of Friday we have had a huge improvement in service,” he said. “I just heard back from their manager this morning, and they had completed their work, and everything should be back to normal.”
He added that he was told, “AEP was also experiencing the same issue with their service because they have the same type of system.
“They noticed their lines degraded over the last couple of months to the point they were inoperable.”
However, this wasn’t enough to curtail the resentment of those in the audience toward the cable and Internet company.
Salazar said, “I know we went to this service because it would save us a bunch of money.
“What good is it to save money when the service isn’t what it was supposed to be?”
Zenaida Silva, district clerk, said that her office, like the others, has been chewed out by the community.
“It has been hard because we never made it public to everybody in the paper,” she said.
Bailiff Bill Lazenby said that district judges have also been having issues because they need the phone system to notify attorneys of their court dates.
“There are time elements on court cases,” he said. “I don’t know much about county court, but if lawyers miss those time lines then CPS has a problem.”
There is also the issue of safety.
Silva said that just recently one of her clerks inadvertently pushed the panic button.
It wasn’t until deputies arrived that they knew the silent alarm was sounding.
The deputies asked, “Why didn’t y’all answer your phone?”
She responded, “It wasn’t ringing.”
The county leaders asked County Attorney Mike Knight, who represents the county in legal matters, to look at their contract and see if there is a way out of it.
Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez in response to his questioning of Oliver, was told they could face penalties if they want out before it expires in 18 months.
Salazar asked, “So we are tied into Time Warner for a year and half regardless of their sorry service?”
Oliver responded, “Yes, sir.”
While the cable line they are using is fast, it is does not maintain a guaranteeable speed.
Oliver also said that there is no guarantee of quality unless the county goes to a T1 or a fiberoptic line.
“Time Warner says they will not put a guarantee on their HSB product, which is their high speed broadband,” Oliver said.
Salazar was adamant that the county get out of the contract with Time Warner.
“We are going to have to take a bite and admit that we made a mistake by going with them,” Salazar said.
Echoing comments made by others, Rodriguez said that the issue wasn’t the fault of Oliver. “I know the IT department has taken a lot of heat,” he said. “From what I am seeing, it is a Time Warner issue, and I wish they would be present to tell us what is going on.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.