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Huntington on tech highway to updating phone, email systems

The Huntington Highway Department has been rolling out some technological advances to improve its antiquated communications system.

During the past year, the department has spent about $15,000 in phone and other upgrades, including making use of a Web-based and smartphone-based resident request management system, Huntington@YourService.

And residents are pleased.

Larry Reiff of East Northport said after superstorm Sandy he reached out to the department about a diseased tree and received no help -- for two years.

"The situation was cleared up in a couple of days with the new administration," Reiff said. "The website has been the biggest change; it helps to be much more responsive."

Peter Gunther said when he took office as highway superintendent in 2014, he wanted to bring the department into the 21st century. It had been operating in an antiquated, disjointed way, with no email system and inferior phones. But that has changed, with more improvements to come.

"My first day in office, there was a major snowstorm," Gunther said. "The phones didn't work, they had a couple of computers that were basically home computers and were not able to communicate with the public in or out, no email."

He said it was difficult to reach satellite highway department locations, such as the sign and mechanic shops, because the phone systems were not integrated. The sign shop had no printer; and one employee was using his personal laptop to do work.

"But now we have great, new systems up and running," he said. "The residents are the winners, and so are the employees."

The lack of basic modern technology led to the department being the target of dissatisfied, and sometimes angry, residents who complained of delayed responses or just being ignored by the previous administration.

William Naughton, the previous superintendent, did not return calls for comment.

Leonard Levitsky of East Northport said he could not get the old administration to address some issues he had with two trees that came down during Sandy. "With this new administration, you get information back, you get answers," he said.

Other updates include: a dozen out-of-date computers replaced or upgraded and several added; upgraded servers and implemented file backup systems; upgraded sign shop system and software; better tracking of vehicle with large monitors for real-time central-office vehicle coordination; and new phones.

Town officials said they are in the early stages of planning the implementation of a computerized work order and maintenance management system. Gunther has also purchased five new dump trucks and plans to purchase five more by September. He said most of the trucks in the fleet and equipment are 25 years old.

Steven Goldfarb of Dix Hills said he had issues with getting his street plowed for years. He said the upgrades and Gunther's leadership are to be applauded.

"Now I can get my street plowed," Goldfarb said. "The change is unbelievable."

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