Persistence has paid off for Coalmont residents who have won their fight with Telus for a new payphone in the community.
Local business owners Bob and Diane Sterne, who spearheaded the campaign for the new phone in a story broadcast across the country, learned last week the phone that was obliterated in a car crash will be replaced.
“Basically they decided to do the right thing which is fabulous but a week before I wouldn’t have held my breath,” said Bob Sterne.
Coalmont’s only public phone offering 24-7 access was destroyed when it was struck by a car March 29, while the phone was in use. Rolly Giroux was later charged with attempted murder in connection with the incident.
Almost immediately villagers learned Telus had no plans to replace the phone. The telecommunications company said the phone was rarely used, and often required repair. Another payphone was available to residents inside the Coalmont Pub, the company said.
The Sternes circulated a petition, contacted all levels of government, and approached the media, without success. Sterne stressed the importance of the phone in the village that is without cellular service, and where many residents do not have their own phones. The phone is crucial for calling emergency services. “I think the big thing is the 911 services because it is right near the Kettle Valley trail,” he said.
“We were pretty much running out of ideas on how to proceed. Diane decided to do a kind of Hail Mary and she looked up all the names of the Telus executives that she could think of and sent out an email to a whole bunch of the executives and one guy – it landed on his desk and he said ‘we should probably deal with this.’”
A response and apology came from Telus president and chief corporate officer Josh Blair.
In an email to Diane Sterne he said “…we didn’t communicate effectively enough that we have been pursing an alternate, viable solution. To this end, I am pleased to share that we now plan to install a new phone, with pay-based calling capability, in a new outdoor location that we believe will be more sustainable over the longer term.”
The new phone will be located on the outside of Coalmont’s Telus building on the north side of Front Street, while the payphone inside the Coalmont Pub will be removed. The new payphone will have free calling to 911, credit card calling, collect calls through an operator, but no coin slots.
“We just dug in our heels because we weren’t going to give up until there was no hope left,” said Sterne.