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North Hempstead 311 call center marks millionth call -- or not

Senator Charles Schumer personally answers the 1 millionth

Senator Charles Schumer personally answers the 1 millionth call at the Town of North Hempstead 311 Call Center in Westbury. The lucky caller, Kathleen Turley of Port Washington, will receive a prize package that includes free access to the town pools, parks and entertainment facilities. (June 24, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

When is a million not a million?

When it's in the Town of North Hempstead, which Monday was joined by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to celebrate the millionth call to its groundbreaking 311 call center.

Or not.

Crammed into a call-center cubicle with a panoply of town and county politicians, Schumer answered a call from Kathleen Turley, 81, of Port Washington, who contacted 311 Monday morning because she wanted a ride to the supermarket.

"You are the one millionth call to our call center and you are going to win some prizes," Schumer said to Turley as the assemblage cheered and popped confetti.

But Turley's call was actually the 998,700th call to the call center -- or thereabouts. The real millionth call won't come in until Tuesday night or Wednesday, since Monday was an unusually slow day, said Vinny Malizia, deputy commissioner of IT.

"Symbolically, this was the millionth call," Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said. "We had guesstimated that it would come in around this time."

The real millionth caller, Kaiman decided Monday, will receive the same prize package as Turley -- passes to town fitness and entertainment facilities, admission to a screening at the Gold Coast film series, and lunch at the town's Harbor Links Golf Course.

The call center, the first one of its kind in a suburban community and one of Kaiman's first key initiatives, opened in 2005. It now receives hundreds of calls each day from town residents on everything from potholes to building permits to requests from seniors for taxi rides.

Turley, for her part, said she had heard about the million-call promotion over several weeks of calling 311, and was pleasantly surprised to be on the phone with Schumer Monday, who was on hand because he helped to get the $500,000 grant to start the center.

"I was hoping it wasn't a mistake," Turley said she was thinking as she spoke with the senator. "That it was true."

When the news was broken -- gently -- by a reporter that she wasn't the actual millionth caller, Turley said she didn't mind.

"As long as I get the prizes," she said.

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