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Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office working around phone outage

TAMPA — Verizon workers continued trying Monday to repair damaged cables that left 300 customers — including the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office — without telephone service for days.

The company expects to get customers back on line by today, said Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell.

The outage struck the appraiser's office in the midst of its busiest season of the year. Officials just sent out notices telling property owners their valuations, exemptions and projected tax bills based on where local governments have tentatively set their tax rates.

"This is like our time to get phone calls," said appraiser's office general counsel Will Shepherd. "We just sent out a half-million pieces of mail."

The deadline for filing an appeal of a property value, denied exemption or other tax issues with the Value Adjustment Board is Wednesday. Shepherd said it's unlikely that date will be extended because of the phone outage. He added, however, that the board can take into account "extenuating circumstances" for late-filed appeals.

Mitchell, the Verizon spokesman, said the trouble began Thursday when a contractor putting in conduits for a traffic signal project near Kings Avenue and State Road 60 in Brandon "basically damaged two of our cables." Verizon must replace the underground cables, which got wet.

As of late Monday afternoon, Verizon had restored service to about a quarter of its affected customers.

Over at the appraiser's office, officials were urging people with concerns to use the customer contact link on the agency's website, www.hcpafl.org.

Customers also can email the office at custserv@hcpafl.org, and a staffer will email or call back from a cellphone.

Though Verizon expects the lines to be ready by today, Shepherd said his office would set up three separate analog phone lines that had been dedicated to fax machines. Those numbers would be functional today in case the main line is still down.

Officials will make those numbers available on the agency's website and on the outgoing message of the main line, (813) 272-6100, if the outage continues.

Times staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report. Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374.

Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office working around phone outage 09/10/12 [Last modified: Monday, September 10, 2012 10:58pm]
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