A lifeline for a small town; Coalmont residents petition for a phone

VANCOUVER — It may be an anachronism for most, but a phone booth in Coalmont, just west of Princeton, serves as a lifeline for the small community of about 80 residents.

“It’s the only public, 24/7 access to 911 in the area,” says Bob Sterne, a local resident. There is no cell service in the small town and Telus says due to the mountainous, steep terrain, it’s too challenging to set it up.

The payphone was destroyed last month, when a feud between two residents culminated with 65-year-old Roland Giroux allegedly ramming his car into the booth. Fortunately, no one was killed. The victim suffered leg injuries and Giroux has been charged with attempted murder. He’s under house arrest, with his next court date scheduled for May 20.

Telus is refusing to replace the public phone. A company spokesperson told Global News that it’s been damaged multiple times over the last couple years and has a low rate of use. The company can’t justify re-installing the booth.

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But residents say the phone is quite literally a life-saver. Last year, Ole Juul recalls witnessing a man come off a local trail on a quad vehicle, “all smashed up, bleeding all over the place.” Juul says the man’s friend was inside the phone booth, calling an ambulance which arrived shortly afterward. “He’d say that phone booth saved my life,” says Juul.

There is one other public phone in town, located inside The Coalmont Hotel, but it’s not accessible 24/7. Sterne has started a petition to get Telus to re-install the booth and he currently has roughly 30 signatures.

“This is pocket change for Telus, literally,” says Sterne. “It is a matter of do they want to do the right thing? The community needs it.”

 –With files from Angela Jung.