Verizon offers $50K reward following botched copper theft

Most of the more than 135 Shelter Island homeowners who lost service  after an unknown vandal severed a cable in hopes of swiping valuable copper last Wednesday night had seen their service restored by Tuesday, according to Verizon officials.

The phone company could not say exactly how many customers were affected, said spokesman John Bonomowho noted that 138 customers contacted the company to complain, but others never reported the problem because neighbors had told them the company was working on the problem.

The outage occurred last Wednesday night when the Verizon line that crosses underwater to Shelter Island was cut above ground east of the town beach at the end of Sixth Street in Greenport. The line connects many landline phones on Shelter Island to Verizon’s main lines.

Even though the line has been repaired, Mr. Bonomo said a few customers still might have problems making calls, with some getting wrong numbers. “That can be corrected easily,” he said, “but it entails our crews identifying each line from the central office and cross-boxes or terminals located on the island.”

As for the cost of the repairs, there was no dollar tally yet, he said, but the company incurred expenses for employee overtime as work continued around the clock in 12-hour shifts. In addition, there will be the cost of materials involved in fixing the cable.

Having to deploy workers to the cable site meant they weren’t available for other jobs, Mr. Bonomo said.

The repairs were time-consuming because the damaged cord contained bundled wire pairs that had to be identified and linked, according to Verizon splicer Tom Meyer, who worked on the job over the weekend.

“We’ll be working all day and night until this is resolved,” he said as he worked Saturday morning. “The police are aware of the situation.”

Southold Town police declined to comment on the incident this week.

Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty called it “unacceptable” that it would take so many days to resolve the problem. He said town should consider using two phone providers for landlines in the future, so there is redundancy in the case of an emergency with one.

Verizon placed posters near where the wire was cut indicating that anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of someone who intentionally damaged the cable could receive a reward of up to $50,000.

Gianna Volpe contributed reporting to this story.

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