Battle Over Phone System

    The question of who was put in charge of installing a new telephone system at East Hampton Town Hall and why it has taken two years and counting to complete the job prompted biting remarks from Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley over the pace of progress and sharp criticism for a town employee and fellow board members.
    The board agreed in February of 2011 to replace the town’s outdated phone system, voted on a plan to do so that November, and by December 2011 had processed a purchase order for the required equipment. Then the project was put on hold to explore the possibility of a new vendor, Bob Pease, the town’s network system administrator, told the town board on Tuesday. Nevertheless, the installation was to be complete by last July.
    Mr. Wilkinson wanted to know the source of the delay. “I never get a satisfactory answer on what is happening,” he said.
    Mr. Pease, who appeared at the board meeting along with Jeanne Carrozza, the town’s purchasing agent, and Hatch Peffer, a strategic account manager for Optimum Lightpath, attempted to explain the delay.
    A firm called Mac Source Communications, which offers business communications and telecommunication system designs and installation, was hired last February to network the town’s telephone infrastructure. The new system will allow all calls made to Town Hall to go to a centralized number so callers can access any department through the central routing system. The plan was expected to save staff time and monthly service charges. It will be able to leave and retrieve voice messages for anyone that works in the town’s offices.
    Work began in April. Since then, Mr. Pease told the board, two employees were fired from Mac Source and two new people were hired and trained in their place. And then Hurricane Sandy roared in and further delayed the delivery of equipment such as new telephones and fiber connectors. They were eventually delivered in November.
    Lightpath, a firm that develops fiber optic networks, was hired by the town to complete an engineering design for the new phone system. The company toured town offices to identify and locate the circuits required to connect the new phone system, but could not locate them, Mr. Pease said. The town is still waiting on that component of the system.
    “Ask me if I give a damn,” the supervisor said. “This was due to be delivered in July. . . . Lightpath wasn’t involved until August. Something was broken and we even gave you an additional three months,” Mr. Wilkinson said to Mr. Pease.
    As manager of the project, Mr. Pease should have more information, Ms. Quigley said, but Mr. Pease countered that he was not the manager of the project.

    ‘What do you know about business, Peter? I’ll tell you I have no respect for your background in business or anything else.’
— Supervisor Bill Wilkinson

    “I’m not in charge. Nobody dictated to me that I was in charge of this project. I’m in I.T. [information technology] not phones,” he said.
    “This exemplifies how lopsided and out of control this town is,” said Ms. Quigley. “Are we supposed to be managers of this department too? Why do we have heads of departments? From the town perspective you’re saying that you weren’t in charge of this project?” she asked.
    As Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc sought to answer some of the questions about the system, Mr. Wilkinson leaned back in his chair and said to him, “What do you know about business, Peter? I’ll tell you I have no respect for your background in business or anything else. Let me talk to you about business.”
    Things don’t get done, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, “Because we spend a lot of time talking about silly things like this.”
    “I feel as if I’m in high school,” Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said as the arguing continued.
    After a woman in the audience said it seemed more like grammar school, Ms. Quigley said to Ms. Overby, “I feel as if I’m in grammar school because that’s your level of intellect.”
    Ms. Quigley suggested putting Ms. Carozza in charge of the project and asked for daily conference calls between all parties until the work is done.
    “I’m beyond this, work it out,” Mr. Wilkinson said at the end of the conversation. “To be honest, in the world I come from everyone in this room would be gone. Eight months on one project, I take no prisoners.”