Telephone outages plague Warren city offices

By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published January 24, 2023


WARREN — If you have tried to call any of the Warren city offices within the City Hall complex and your call did not go through or was dropped, you are not alone.

“What the hell is going on with the phones?” said Paul Kerman.  “They were down for two days. I knew I better come down here and talk to you.”

Kerman shared his comment during the audience participation portion of a recent Warren City Council meeting.

“The City of Warren Government Offices are experiencing regional phone outages caused by old technology, which needs to be replaced,” Mayor James Fouts stated in a news release.

Although the phone outage has spread through city offices, the Warren Police Department’s 911 calls are not affected.  For nonemergency calls, the police department is asking residents to call (586) 574-4511 and follow the prompts.

Fouts said the replacement of the old phone technology was partially delayed when the Warren City Council refused his request to upgrade the antiquated phone system.

“This rejection prolonged the process,” said the mayor. “I did sign an emergency purchase order, which finally got the process rolling.”

According to Councilman Jonathan Lafferty, the mayor made a request for an emergency purchase in December 2021 from Presidio Phone Systems for $49,000 with a monthly increase of $1,300, for a total cost of $380,000 in three years.

The emergency purchase order came after the Warren Fire Department was without incoming calls by residents and others due to a problem in the phone system, according to a news release from the mayor on the city’s website.

The City Council did object to any emergency purchase order, said the mayor.

“There was no action taken because there was no published budget we could work from,” Lafferty said.

The City Council can only work with a budget published by the mayor, according to Lafferty. The 2021 budget was approved in June 2021, at which time there was no mention by the administration of a need for a phone service replacement or upgrade.  The budget was published by the mayor in December 2021.

“This system did not become antiquated overnight.  The system did not become antiquated during this term of council,” Lafferty said.  “It was far into its legacy stage before we took office.”

In January 2023, Lafferty said he requested to have the telephone services discussion published on the City Council meeting agenda so there was proper notice and representation of the administration at the meeting so council members could ask questions regarding the phone service.  No one from the administration discussed this matter at the Jan. 10 council meeting.

“What are you waiting for?  Send us the appropriation for the telephone system and this body will approve it,” said Lafferty.

In an interview with the Warren Weekly, when asked whether he had sent an appropriation to the City Council for the phone system, the mayor said, “Yes, we sent over to them a communication over a year ago some time in 2021.  They wouldn’t approve it.  So, then I went ahead and signed an emergency purchase order and we are now getting it taken care of.  So, it should be taken care of by February or so.”

As of press time, the Warren City Council had not received a proposal from the mayor regarding telephone service.