SILVER CITY - The cell phone explosion is rendering the pay phone obsolete - and this may cause problems in Silver City, where residents may lose the only pay phone in town.
The Silver City Volunteer Fire Department received a letter July 8 from SBC stating that the pay phone is scheduled to be removed. In the letter, the company offered a "convenience line," which would allow the pay phone to remain at a cost of cost $50 per month, plus taxes and surcharges.
The phone, located on Main Street next to the old fire department building, has been there at least 30 years, according to longtime resident Tamara Burnet.
Burnet, who is vice chairwoman of the town's advisory committee, said she plans to write a letter to SBC asking them to reconsider removing the pay phone because cell phone reception in the canyon town is often poor.
"We have a lack of cell phone (reception) in the area," she said. "Some of our emergency calls from good Samaritans have come from that phone."
She also added that there was no commercial establishment in Silver City where the pay phone can be relocated and that the town of about 100 residents had a high level of indigent people who don't have phones.
SBC spokesperson Vanessa Smith said the company would look into Silver City's dilemma before making a final decision on that particular pay phone.
"If there's a clear need to maintain a pay phone in that community, then we're going to do everything we can to serve that community," she said. "On this particular issue, it sounds like we just need to get more involved with the community."
Smith said that SBC is removing pay phones in areas with low-volume use because more people are using cell phones.
"It's a shift that the company is making and basically it's because people aren't using pay phones like they used to," she said. "If they're not being utilized and there's not a need for them, it costs the company to maintain them and they're not generating revenue."
Smith said the company would try to work with the county to assess Silver City's needs, adding it was possible the company can put a dedicated line at that pay phone that will dial 911 only, so emergencies can still be reported.
She said it is not policy to change all pay phones that weren't generating revenue to a $50 per month convenience line.
"In most locations we're removing them altogether," she said. "It's not an economically viable part of our business."
Mark Darragh, battalion chief at the Central Lyon County Fire District, said he received a similar letter around the same time regarding the pay phone at the Mound House fire station on Red Rock Road, and he decided to forgo the convenience line.
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