Top ten unusual phone calls and how to handle them

by Amber A. Vogt

Do you ever find yourself sitting at your computer - hanging up the phone from the most bizarre conversations? Most days our phone rings and we never know what we are going to get, sometimes it has to do with planning & zoning, but most times it is the general public just trying to figure out a question. A huge part of our jobs is to be there as a public servant, and yes this means even if it is not in our job description. Always keep in mind that how you act on the phone will directly affect you somewhere down the line, you never know when that person that called to ask that dumb question needs help with a building permit or a conditional use permit, they will remember how you treated them with that dumb question.

Top 10 Phone Calls So Far in 2017

  1. There’s a cow in my neighbor's dog kennel, can the County deal with this?
  2. How do I change a court date?
  3. I want to talk to my boyfriend/girlfriend in the jail?
  4. Can the County please cut down this tree that is in the floodplain in my backyard?
  5. You know my house has never flooded, and we have lived here for 30, years, so why won’t you let me build an addition onto the house in the floodplain below the base flood elevation?
  6. How do I get to the dump?
  7. Why can’t I just have six houses on 5 acres in the middle of the forest with no water/sewer, etc.?
  8. How can I stop my brother from routing his water drainage onto my property, without pissing him off?
  9. There is this person in the County who is doing something they are not supposed to do how do I tell somebody without telling them who I am?
  10. Does this guy sitting in my yard need to have a permit to dump sewage in my pasture?

Top 5 Ways to Deal with These Phone Calls

  1. Breathe In. Breathe Out.
  2. Do NOT vent on Facebook.
  3. Enjoy the entertainment.
  4. When in doubt, tell them to call the Sheriff.
  5. Drink a Beer.

There is always more to the questions, so you have to learn how to ask questions to pull out more information so that you can get to the root of the problem.

Take a deep breath and just answer the question, try not to get too involved. Sometimes they are just trying to figure out something very simple but they do not know who to ask, and sometimes they really are just dumb questions. You still do your job and have fun doing it! Then when you get off the phone, you have a story to tell in your office.

Amber Vogt serves as the director of the Lawrence County Planning and Zoning Office. She serves on the Western Planning Resources Board.

Published July 2017 in the Western Planner

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