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Persistent problem

Phones again plague D.C. government as DCRA relocation causes turmoil

(Published April 5, 1999)

By REBECCA CHARRY

Staff Writer

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs moved out of its Chinatown offices March 29, but it seems someone forgot to turn off the phones. Days after the move, calls to the main number, 727-7000, just rang and rang and rang. So did calls to some 26 other DCRA lines.

Some lines, including the office of Director Lloyd Jordan, were equipped with messages directing callers to the new main number, 442-4400. But calls to that number led instead to a Bell Atlantic announcement that the line was not in service.

Telephone trouble is not new to the D.C. government. The city spent more than $1 million over eight months for some 9,000 unused phone lines citywide, the D.C. inspector general concluded in a February report.

Although city leaders pledged to resolve that problem quickly, lack of coordination among agencies responsible for government phone service seems to persist.

"It has not been the smoothest of transitions," acknowledged a D.C. employee familiar with the DCRA phone service transition. "We are actually working right now to establish standards and procedures to prevent this from happening in the future."

The employee, who asked not to be identified, said April 1 that recordings directing callers to the new numbers should be in place within the following week.

Chief Technology Officer Suzanne Peck was unaware of the problem until a reporter contacted the mayor’s office.

At press time, about 26 phone lines at DCRA’s old offices at 614 H St. NW were still connected and simply rang indefinitely when called. About 29 phone lines were equipped with recorded messages giving the numbers for the new offices at 941 North Capitol St. NE. On a few of the old lines, the recorded message was followed by a free automatic connection to the new number.

But five days after the move, operators at Bell Atlantic directory assistance were still giving out the agency’s old numbers and DCRA’s computer website, www.dcra.org, also had not been updated.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator