Nextel Partners, a cellular service provider, donated four phones and a year's worth of free phone service to the Martinez Fire Department on Tuesday to help celebrate its grand opening.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening celebration was held at Nextel's new Martinez location at the West Town Shopping Center on Washington Road.
"This is a significant day for Nextel, the opening of our first retail store in Augusta," said Jessie Queck, the location's manager. "It's a sign of our commitment to a community that has welcomed us since launching our wireless service here just last month. So far, we've seen great enthusiasm for our product."
The wireless phones and free service, valued at $6,000, will be used on an experimental basis, said Chief Doug Cooper.
"With big incidents we can get a lot of traffic on our radios and we're stuck with just the one channel to use," Cooper said.
Cooper said the phones will be used as an alternative communication source and also will be tested in the Winfield community.
"There's a dead zone in Winfield where we just can't get a signal," he said. "Hopefully, these phones will allow us to communicate in that area."
Nextel donated the phones to establish themselves as a community-oriented business.
"We've always been very active in the communities that we're located in," said Mike Orzechowski, Georgia and Florida area manager for Nextel.
In addition to Nextel personnel and firefighters, members of the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce and Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross also attended the ribbon-cutting.
The new 900-square-foot retail store is one of 40 Nextel plans to open nationwide this year. Between sales and support staff, they will employ 14-18 people. Nextel launched service in the area in May.
Nextel, next to Firehouse Subs, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. They can be reached at 860-1946.
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