Erie County workers chopped through a telecommunications cable Monday morning while trying to dig up earth for a rain garden, disrupting the county's 911 service and cutting off business calls to the Erie County Sheriff's office.
Calls to the county's Emergency Management Agency, housed at the sheriff's office, also were cut off.
Bob Hall, telecommunications coordinator for Erie County, said he was notified at 9:50 a.m. the cable behind the County Services Center had been cut.
He said that by 10 a.m., calls had been rerouted, with calls from land lines going to the Sandusky Police Department's dispatchers, and calls from cell phones going to the Perkins Township Police Department.
The county doesn't have a system that identifies the location of 911 cellular phone calls.
Hall said he did not know how many calls may have been missed during the few minutes when the system was down.
Sheriff Terry Lyons said that as far as he knew, the outage had not affected any important calls.
Full service was restored by 6 p.m., Hall said. After that, test calls were made to verify the system was working correctly.
Hall said having to route the calls through other agencies did not delay emergency services, because the dispatchers could communicate by radio. But he said Sandusky dispatchers could not look at their screens and identify the location of the caller.
Sandusky's dispatchers moved to the sheriff's office on Aug. 3, to the same room used by 911 dispatchers, Lyons said. The Sandusky dispatchers were not affected by the cable cut because they are on a different fiber optic line, he said.
Hall said a new line for the Erie County Engineer's Office, located near the sheriff's office, was installed after the phone line serving the building had repeatedly been cut.
There was no backup for the sheriff's office line because no one had seen a need for it, Hall said.
"We've never had any digging out here," he said.
He said he expects action to be taken now to provide a backup for the sheriff's phone cable.
"I would think that will be addressed rather quickly," he said.
Hall estimated repairs to the cable by AT&T will cost Erie County about $1,000.
Telephone lines are supposed to be buried at least two feet below the surface, but the phone cable was only six inches below.
"We didn't think we needed to mark anything," said Allen Jackson, the county's facilities manager.
Breann Hohman, watershed coordinator for Erie Soil & Water Conservation District, said three rain gardens are being built in the county government's campus on Columbus Avenue to reduce runoff and to provide examples for residents.
One has been completed by the dog pound, and two others are being made near the County Services Center, Hohman said.
Water from the building's roof will be diverted into the rain garden instead of flowing into the creek, she said.
Jackson said that in the wake of Monday's accident, workers will make sure the other rain garden near the County Services Center doesn't cause any problems.
"Before we put that one in, we're going to go in and check the drawings," Jackson said.