Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 3, 2003

Businesses looking at metro calling benefits

By Julie Yurek

With metro calling becoming a possibility for Winsted, local businesses may benefit from the service.

Metro calling would allow residents and businesses to call the Twin Cities area without long distance charges.

Businesses may benefit from metro calling, depending on where the majority of their customer base is located and what services a company currently has.

Sterner Lighting Systems doesn't have a broad customer base in the metro area, so "I would have to look at the phone bills to determine if it would save the company money," said Pat Boudreau, a controller.

Sterner's customers are spread throughout the United States, she said.

Other business owners or managers knew right away that metro calling would be of great service to them.

Metro calling would "definitely benefit" Millerbernd Manufactur-ing, said general manager Trevor Millerbernd.

"Thirty percent of our calls are there (in the metro area)," he said. "I'm all for it."

Another business that is "all for it" is RAM Buildings.

"We do a lot of business there," said co-owner Gregg Machemehl.

"We were forced to get an 800 line to help compensate for the lack of a metro number. A lot of people were upset that they had to pay to call us. We use the 800 line to call our vendors in the metro, too," he said.

"Metro calling would be a great benefit to RAM to have our customers call in at no charge and the same with the outgoing calls as well," he said. "We would definitely be interested and for it."

Littfin Lumber is a business that has had to improvise to combat a lack of metro service.

Littfin's has had metro calling for almost 20 years, said Vice President Steve Laxen.

Littfin's has about nine metro phone lines, he said. "It would have been a big deal 15 years ago, because of what we were paying per line, about $200 a piece. Now, it's more reasonable, about $70."

Even with the time lapse though, Laxen could still see a use for metro calling, he said. "It may have features that we can't get with our lines right now."

"I think it would be a good service, and I'm for it," he said. "It just won't have the impact now as it would have years back."

If metro calling would save the company even a small amount of money a month, it would be worth it, he said.

If metro calling passed, residents will have two options for local service, a flat rate or measured rate.

This is not related in any way to long distance service, which can be offered by any number of different service providers.

With a flat rate, which is used by most callers, residents pay a flat monthly fee. That fee would be added to what residents pay for local service.

Current rates in Winsted are $18.44 per month for a city residential line ($20.69 in the rural area), including surcharges but not taxes. Business line rates are $22.19 in the city and $25.59 rural.

The rate increase if metro calling is approved would be determined by a series of calculations. In Howard Lake's case, the increase amounted to just over $10 per month for a residential line and $20 per month for a business line.

The measured rate would have a lower monthly charge, but there would be a fee per minute for every call made. The measured rate is intended for people who use the telephone very little, often senior citizens.


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