CANNON BEACH - If you've got an urge to call Cannon Beach City Hall, you'll get an answer no matter what time of day it is.

The city's new 24-hour automated phone system answers calls to the city's main (503) 436-1581 number. It is designed to allow quick access to staff and special announcements. A main menu greets callers and directs them to either a directory of extension numbers or to special announcements.

During city operating hours, the caller may press "0" at any time to reach a receptionist.

"We have a small amount of staff and we're trying to make the best use of everybody's time, especially at a time when we're facing budget challenges," City Manager Peggy Coats said.

"The receptionists spend a lot of time on the phone and tending to people at the counter and sometimes there's not enough to go around. A lot of times, when they answer the phone, they just need to transfer the call to someone else."

In just a few short days, staff are already noticing that the number of calls going directly to the receptionists have decreased significantly, allowing them to attend to the needs of people coming into the office.

Callers who do not know the extension of the person they want to talk to may access a directory of extensions. A list of staff extensions will also be listed on the city's new Web Site, which is set to launch soon. By pressing an extension, the caller will be sent directly to that particular staff member. If the staff member is already on the phone, the caller will be sent to the voice mail, which will be answered promptly.

The automated system will also be used for special announcements, like holiday closures or power failures, Coats said.

Although automated, the system is designed to allow immediate access to a receptionist at any time during operating hours.

"We don't want people to feel that we're putting them at arm's length, but if you do call in and hang in the length of one sentence, you can talk to a person immediately instead of going through the system," Coats said.

The voice on the recording is that of the technician who installed the system.

"We couldn't decide among ourselves who had the best voice to do it, and we thought he had a nice cheerful voice," Coats said.

She said that the automated capability was already built into the phone system the city already had, so it didn't cost anything to implement.

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