Watten can’t pay for 9-1-1 service

Watten Township will not share 9-1-1 service with Fort Frances anymore after having failed to come up with the money it owes the town.
Community Services manager George Bell said yesterday the town already is looking into cutting off Watten residents from the service, in which all 9-1-1 calls go to La Verendrye hospital as per an agreement with Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. here.
He noted it’s not clear exactly how long it will be before Watten residents are cut off as Bell Canada has not previously excluded customers in this fashion within the same exchange (in this case, the 274 exchange).
Bell said after the switchover, Watten residents still can dial 9-1-1 in an emergency. It’s just that then it will go to a Bell Canada operator—something that could be an inconvenience for callers.
“Who know long it’s going to take them to put your call through. They’re in Sudbury,” he noted.
If Watten callers want a direct line, they will have to dial 274-2233 for the ambulance or 274-3111 for the Fort Frances Fire Department (the old emergency numbers before the town switched to 9-1-1).
To reach the OPP, they will have to call 1-888-310-1122 (the OPP communications centre in Kenora).
Watten residents Carol Lyons and Jim McQuarrie have been trying since May, 1998 to raise the funds needed to pay the township’s share of the costs of 9-1-1 service to Fort Frances.
While they managed to garner $11,758.31, there remains $5,080 owing to the town—not including the $2,600 in late payments charges.
According to Lyons and McQuarrie in a report received by town council here Monday night, there were two problems with raising the funds:
•Bell Canada cannot, for privacy reasons, provide the billing addresses for the phone lines, so the address list they use was developed on an ad-hoc basis from many sources and lacked accuracy, was far from complete, and difficult to keep current; and
•there was a poor response by many Watten residents to the request for funds.
Lyons and McQuarrie notified council they have terminated their efforts to raise the necessary funds to maintain the 9-1-1 service and gave the town a cheque for $448.90—the balance of the fund’s account.
The notice was forwarded to the Administration and Finance division, which will write-off the owing balance.
As Watten is an unorganized area, the Town of Fort Frances cannot force it to pay up the balance, George Bell noted.
Previously, other 9-1-1 partners within the 274 exchange had indicated they would not cover financing Watten’s debt.