Maple Lake votes ‘Yes’ on metro calling area

After a six-year wait, Maple Lake telephone customers have overwhelmingly approved entrance into the metro calling area.

On October 24, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission announced the results of local mail-balloting that took place from August 21 to October 2. Maple Lake telephone customers approved Extended Area Service (EAS) by 1366 votes (68.5%) to 627 votes (31.5%). A total of 64.5% of the customers eligible to vote returned their ballots to the Public Utilities Commission.     Maple Lake resident John Slimmer was the driving force behind the EAS petition filed in 1996 and said he was gratified at the results of the voting.

“I felt elated,” he said. “And I always felt it was something that the majority of the people in Maple Lake wanted.”  Slimmer also noted the efforts of volunteers who helped get the EAS ball rolling in 1996. “I would like to thank all the people who helped me get the extended area exchange to the metro area for our phone service,” he said.

Maple Lake joins Henderson, Howard Lake, Lonsdale and Princeton in voting for EAS. None of the communities voting for entrance to the metro calling area voted it down. Howard Lake’s voters approved EAS by 646 votes (67.1%) to 317 votes (32.9%).

Roger Moy, rates analyst for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, said phone companies are required to implement EAS in their respective exchanges within 12 months from the date of the order certifying the polling results. He said local phone companies will coordinate the implementation process with metro area phone companies and Lakedale Telephone will assume that role in Maple Lake.

Bill Pallies, commercial supervisor for Lakedale Telephone, said the first step in the process will be the certification of the election results. “Once that official order is done, that triggers other important dates,” he said.

Pallies estimated that certification would come between November 1 and 14, which means that the process of bringing Maple Lake into the metro calling area would have a completion deadline of November, 2003.

Lakedale has the advantage of familiarity with EAS implementation, having gone through the process when Lakedale customers in Montrose and Waverly entered the metro calling area in 1998 and it is possible that the EAS process would be completed in less than the 12-month requirement. But Pallies said there is much to be done in the coming months, with Lakedale taking steps to prepare for a big increase in Maple Lake phone use that could triple or quadruple when metro calling is instituted.

He said trunk lines will need to be increased and switches throughout the metro area will need to be reprogrammed to recognize Maple Lake calls as part of the system. “It all takes time,” Pallies said.  Lakedale’s Maple Lake customers can expect to receive notices by December 1 with their monthly phone bills notifying them of the election results and the 12-month deadline for completion of the EAS process. In 60 to 90 days prior to the implementation of EAS, Pallies said customers will be receiving ballots to select their choice of flat-rate or measured service:

* For the Flat-Rate Option, a monthly charge of $15.63 in addition to the $10.50 local rate for a total of $26.13 will permit unlimited calling to the metro area and the local area, which will still include Annandale.

*Local Measured Service includes a monthly local charge of $9.96 and tolls will be assessed of two cents per minute for local calls with eight cents per minute charges for calls to the metro area.

*Metro EAS Measured Service includes a monthly charge of $13.42 with a toll of eight cents per minute to the metro area and unlimited calling within the Maple Lake/Annandale exchanges.

Pallies said that Maple Lake’s 320 area code will remain the same, but ‘1’ will be the only digit to be dropped in calling the metro area. “It’s important to stress that 10-digit dialing will still be required,” he said. “You won’t have to dial the ‘1’ in front, but the next 10 digits will be needed, with the exception of calls to Annandale. This whole process has no effect on calling between Maple Lake and Annandale.”