Widespread Verizon land-line telephone problems in Stone Harbor and Avalon this week hampered businesses and riled municipal officials.
The company said it fixed the problems Wednesday, apologized and promised to investigate whether changes need to be made to prevent future problems.
Both towns reported numerous cases of phone calls that did not go through or were dead on the other end starting Monday or earlier. The issues affected residents, both borough halls and both police departments’ nonemergency numbers.
Emergency calls to 911 run on a separate system and were not affected, police chiefs in Stone Harbor and Avalon said.
Verizon said the problem was related to equipment that routes voice traffic and was fixed on Wednesday afternoon.
But officials in both towns said they want answers on why Verizon did not address the problem earlier or why apparently no one informed the municipalities of the ongoing trouble. Both seasonal towns have small year-round populations of mostly senior citizens.
“This is pathetic customer service at its utmost,” said Avalon Business Administrator Andrew Bednarek, who said no one from Verizon contacted anyone from Avalon about those phone problems.
Avalon spokesman Scott Wahl said residents calling a help center were told there was no record of the problems.
“To have this happen, you expect something for a couple of hours, not for a couple of days,” he said.
Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski said the problem originated in the Avalon Central Office Facility, which houses telephone equipment and routes call traffic across the network. The issue involved equipment that routes voice traffic, he said.
Technicians isolated the problem on Wednesday and repaired it by Wednesday afternoon, he said.
“Verizon apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused any customers or municipal officials, and the team is going to investigate the incident to determine if any additional action is needed to prevent something like this from happening in the future,” he said. “We’ll also look at ways to improve the way we communicate to customers about outages like this.”
The boroughs of Avalon and Stone Harbor noticed the problems on Monday morning, although some other residents said they were having phone trouble late last week.
Stone Harbor attorney Jane Hoy, who has an office on 98th Street, said she had been without Verizon service since last Thursday.
“We’ve lost clients, I’m sure, and we haven’t been able to service our existing clients without us reaching out to them with our cell phones,” she said.
Phone calls to her office were forwarded to her secretary’s cell phone.
“I was answering the phone and they were saying, ‘Hello, hello, hello?’ And I was doing the same,” said Fran Mastrangelo, owner of Barrie Shoes in Stone Harbor. “This time of year people aren’t sure what businesses are open in Stone Harbor and for them not to get through to me, they assumed I was closed.”
The phone problems created some havoc in two shore towns during a typically quiet time of year, prompting Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters to say on Wednesday morning: “We are having major, major problems.
“The biggest part of the problem is people have been calling the Verizon 800 number in the phone book and were told Verizon was taking care of it,” she said.
Stone Harbor Borough Hall’s fax machine was out of service too, Administrator Kenneth Hawk said.
“We don’t know if we’re missing phone calls. The mayor tried to call the borough this morning, it rang once and hung up,” he said.
There were problems elsewhere too.
Police chiefs in Stone Harbor and Avalon said there was no effect on 911 calls, which use a separate system. However, nonemergency phone calls to the police departments were spotty, they said.
Avalon Police Chief David Dean said calls to the police department’s nonemergency numbers were being routed to cell phones until the problem was fixed.
“We’re still in business,” Dean said.
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