The emergency 911 phone system that links Fishers Island to Suffolk County police and emergency services has become exorbitantly expensive, a county representative told the Southold Town board last week.
The phone bill for that dedicated line is about $26,000 a month. In 2002, it was about $6,000 a month, said Matthew Jones, director of information management for the county, and commissioner of the 911 system.
“It’s an astounding figure,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. Fishers Island is part of Southold Town. “We’re trying to work out a meeting with AT&T and Fishers Island Phone Co.,” as well as town employees in the technology department, he added.
The bill is paid by the county, which wants to find a more affordable way to provide the service.
It is not clear what is behind the cost increase, Jones said.
A 911 call to the dedicated AT&T landline takes a circuitous route once it is placed from a Fishers Island residence or business. The call goes first to the Fishers Island Telephone Co., then on to Connecticut and finally to Southold Town police on Long Island. The officer or dispatcher then takes the information and informs Fishers Island’s emergency services of the nature of the call.
Fishers Island, while part of the Town of Southold and Suffolk County, is actually closer to Connecticut in miles and accessibility. The only public transportation is a ferry from New London, Conn.
According to its website, Fishers Island has about 600 homes and a year-round population of about 235 residents; that number swells to at least 2,000 during the summer.
During the non-summer months, Fishers Island has a New York State trooper on hand and a volunteer fire department to respond to emergency calls.
According to George Horning, manager of Fishers Island Telephone, it is estimated that the phone company is responsible for just 1 percent of the circuit, and that officials there were not aware of the cost since they don’t see a bill.
“We’re providing a community service,” Horning said, adding that the line was installed in 1992. “We’re not generating any kind of revenue from it.”
Above: Fishers Island