Emergency phones out since 1/1/2000 -- just reported

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Disconnect: Northway emergency phones not working By Associated Press, 1/26/2000 13:39 RAY BROOK, N.Y. (AP) Emergency phones along the Adirondack Northway have been out all year with a Y2K-related problem, and state police don't know when they will be repaired.

The decade-old emergency system consists of phones set up every two miles along a roughly 60 mile stretch of the highway in the Adirondack Park. When the phones worked, drivers in need of assistance could lift the receiver to be connected directly to state police's Troop B Headquarters in Ray Brook.

The phones stopped working with the new year because they weren't Y2K compliant, Lt. Donald Romanchuk of Troop B said Wednesday.

Col. Hanford Thomas, deputy superintendent for administration with state police, said the department is ''looking for an interim solution'' and hopes to make permanent changes in the system this year. He doesn't know what that will cost or how long it will be before the system is repaired.

State police do not specifically have money budgeted to fix the Northway phones, but Thomas said police could tap into their general repair fund, if necessary.

''January is not the best time for this to happen,'' he told the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh.

State police used to get 30 to 50 calls a month from people needing help, Troop B Communications Supervisor Sgt. Bradley Fletcher said. Some had been in accidents or had seen fires. Others had disabled cars. Some were just lost.

''Some people consider this high-wilderness area,'' Fletcher said. ''They are not used to seeing that many trees all in one place. Sometimes they get disoriented because they're not used to seeing exits so far apart.''

Fletcher said people with cellular phones don't have much use for the system. But there are numerous gaps in cell-phone coverage in the mountainous Adirondack region.

Romanchuk said state police officers have been patrolling the highway more often in the absence of working emergency phones.

-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), January 27, 2000

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