Because of cable damage caused by a contractor, the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's office lost phone service on the eve of a deadline for property owners to appeal their assessments.
The contractor was working on traffic lights at U.S. Highway 60 and Kings Avenue in Brandon when he struck large Verizon cables, knocking out service to 300 residential and business customers, said Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell.
The company had restored about 75 of the customers by Monday afternoon, Mitchell said, and hoped to have all 300 back in service by today.
"Where the cables were damaged, they also got wet from the deluge that is Tampa," Mitchell said. "Right now they're splicing individual copper wires together, which is very labor intensive, to restore service."
Will Shepherd, general counsel for the property appraiser's office, said the disruption in phone service comes at a bad time. Since mid-August, the office has been sending out annual Truth in Millage, or TRIM, notices to property owners that give a property's valuation and the tax owed by the owner.
"We're smack-dab in the middle of TRIM season," Shepherd said. "We usually get hundreds of calls a day during this time."
Property owners who want to challenge their assessment only have until Wednesday to file a petition for a hearing with the Value Adjustment Board.
"It's just bad timing," Shepherd said.
Shepherd said Verizon officials told him three different phone lines with different numbers would be available some time today. Until then, property owners who want to discuss their tax assessment should go the property appraiser's website, www.hcpafl.org, and look at the bottom of the page for customer service to email a request. Workers will use their personal cell phones to call customers back.
The severed line is in Brandon, but the outage is affecting the main office downtown and the four county branches.