WORTHINGTON — Getting a call from a number beginning with 666?

Don’t worry. It’s just the city of Worthington.

The city recently upgraded its telephone system and as a result has multiple new phone numbers. While the longtime primary Worthington City Hall phone number — 372-8600 — remains operational, the direct numbers for staffers have been changed and now begin with a 666 prefix.

Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson noted that the upgrade was prompted, in part, by subpar internet service at city hall and outdated phones for which replacement parts couldn’t be found. The city has now moved to Voice over Internet Protocol, which allows for delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over the internet.

“We installed a fiber internet system, and that was done with CARES Act funds,” Robinson said.

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During a Sept. 16 Worthington City Council meeting, council members authorized city staff to proceed with joining the fiber optic network developed in 2009 by Worthington Public Utilities and Nobles County.

In a memorandum to council members that was prepared for the meeting, Robinson noted that remote meetings and employee teleworking caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the poor internet service at City Hall. Given the likelihood at that time of continued remote meetings and work, city staff had begun exploring options to improve its service, he said.

Robinson noted that Worthington Independent School District 518 had joined the fiber optic network in 2018, investing $150,000 to extend the fiber loop around portions of the west and south sides of the city. Following that lead, the city council opted for payment of the city’s own user fee of $150,000 — to be paid with its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocation — to boost internet service at City Hall as well as additional city facilities.

In addition to the use of CARES funds for the fiber optic network, the city invested between $5,000 and $6,000 for new phones, Robinson added.