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Frazee may vote to drop long-distance

The city of Frazee will find out next week if residents and businesses will be able to take the next step toward calling Detroit Lakes for free.

"It's all in the wait-and-see file right now," Deputy Clerk Marian Estenson said. "We'd sure like to see it pass as soon as possible."

City Clerk Kelcey Klemm said Frazee first had to file a petition that required signatures from 15 percent of the customers within the 334 exchange. The city placed petitions at city hall, Daggett Truck Line, Frazee Schools, Seip Drug and a few other high-traffic areas.

The city needed about 260 signatures, and it received 280. Klemm said to his knowledge, none were disputed.

With the proposal, it could mean free long-distance calling to Detroit Lakes, Perham and Vergas. Each exchange must pass on its own, though.

Klemm said that Loretel Systems, the phone company that services Frazee residents, will now do a traffic study.

"If 50 percent of 334 (customers) make three or more calls a month to the exchange," he said, then the process to that exchange will continue forward.

Klemm believes the only one that will pass is Detroit Lakes. With cells phones being so popular, many people don't use their landlines for long-distance calls anymore.

"Back in 1996, Detroit Lakes was the only exchange that qualified," he said.

If the proposal does pass, while Detroit Lakes will be able to call Frazee with no charge, Detroit Lakes residents hardly see any extra costs on their monthly bills. Since Frazee petitioned for the service, the 334 exchange customers will have to pay for 80 percent of the charges and Detroit Lakes would pay for 20 percent. Estenson said it will be a matter of pennies for Detroit Lakes residents.

In 1996, after being put to a vote, the proposal was defeated.

He said confusion and misleading wording caused the defeat.

The increase was proposed at $2.70 a month extra for residential bills, and $4.04 a month for commercial bills, but the way it was worded on the ballot wrongly made people think it was going up $10.90, he said.

With that straightened out this time around, and Klemm predicting rates similar to those proposed in 1996, he said the arrangement with Detroit Lakes will likely pass.

"During the petition process, everyone was so favorable," he said.

Klemm will find out Monday what the traffic study from Loretel reveals. If 50 percent make calls to Detroit Lakes or the other cities, the phone company and Detroit Lakes' phone company -- Qwest --will get together to discuss proposed rate increases.

After that, ballots will be sent out with 334 exchange bills for voting, which likely won't be until this fall.

"This would be a huge advantage for businesses," Klemm said.