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Courthouse has new phone system in place

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / July 27, 1998

EDGARD – Once upon a time, some residents in St. John the Baptist Parishhad to make a long-distance toll call to reach offices in the parishcourthouse in Edgard. Once upon a time, it took forever to break throughthe busy signals in some offices there.No more.Thanks to technology provided by Reserve Telephone Co., and coordinationby Civil Service Director Bertram Madere, the courthouse has a new phonesystem installed, designed to make access to government offices easier,parishwide.People may now phone 1-877-497-8836 and connect with an automatedphone system which will direct the callers to the offices they need. Thenumber is not long distance for residents across St. John Parish, despitethe 1-877 exchange, Madere stressed, as it is a toll-free call similar to1-800 or 1-888.RTC senior account executive Barbara Jacob also pointed out that if the497 exchange is local now, customers do not have to dial the 10-digitnumber but may simply phone 497-8836.Until a few days ago, only LaPlace residents could phone the 13 agenciesin the courthouse locally, while residents in Reserve and Garyville had tophone the courthouse long-distance for everyday matters such as courtdates, jury duty and traffic tickets.Now, with 16 lines on a rollover system, all the present problems shouldbe solved, Madere added, and with the capability of expansion to 60 lines,it should be sufficient “for my lifetime.”Referral messages for the old phone numbers will be in place Monday,Jacob said, to refer dialers to the new centralized number. It waspostponed until everything could be hooked up.The project was launched a year ago when a lightning strike knocked outthe telephone lines for Clerk of Court Harold Montegut Jr.’s office. Those30 lines, half of the building’s 60 lines, crippled the workings of the 40thJudicial District for a time.At the same time, Madere related, a study was beginning to overhaul andupdate the phone system throughout the building. “Everyone was doingtheir own thing and not working together.”When Montegut approached the Parish Council to go out for bids, the entirematter was put in Madere’s hands, as the resident telecommunications”expert.”With four bids received, Reserve Telephone Co. came up with $27,000 inequipment costs. That, Madere pointed out, will save the parish that muchand more in long-distance charges alone. The parish is buying theequipment for $900 per month on a lease-purchase basis, he added.Courthouse offices were placed on a 40-mile local-option plan, whichmade it local to phone even into Jefferson Parish and vice-versa. That alsomade it possible for all of the east bank of St. John Parish to reach thecourthouse.The general menu of the courthouse includes Clerk of Court – Press 1,Sheriff’s Office – Press 2, District Attorney – Press 3, Judge’s chambers -Press 4, Juvenile Probation Office – Press 5, and Assessor – Press 6.Pressing the number for each office brings the caller to an option menufor that specific option.”There’s still a few small bugs in the system,” one unnamed employee inthe Clerk’s office said, but with a little patience and close attention,callers can get through.In addition, a computer printout will be generated to determine wherephones are needed, or not needed, depending upon caller traffic.”This is probably something we’ve needed to do for the past 10 years,”Madere said, adding a similar project is planned soon for all the east bankgovernment offices, including the Percy Hebert Courthouse Annex andother government buildings.

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