New area code inconvenient, necessary

Joe Carlson

The University is in the eye of a hurricane amid the planned changes to the Twin Cities’ area code.
Although phone calls between the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul will require three extra numbers under a plan approved last year, the University’s five-digit dialing system will not be affected by the changes.
In other words, students living in Bailey Hall on the St. Paul campus would still be able to call their friends in Sanford Hall on the Minneapolis campus using the same phone numbers.
The University’s telephone system is based in Minneapolis, which will retain the 612 area code. So despite the fact that the St. Paul campus is located within the new 651 area code, callers won’t have to dial any extra numbers to reach it when the new codes take effect in July.
Old area codes will still be useable until January 1999, when the transition period ends.
Although St. Paul residents knew about dialing changes in October when a state commission approved a new area code for the city, specifics on the plan weren’t released until earlier this week.
Residents of St. Paul, Falcon Heights, Roseville and New Brighton will have to use the 612 area code to call people at the University.
Residents of Minneapolis, Lauderdale, St. Anthony and Columbia Heights will need to dial 6-5-1 to reach friends and family who live off campus in the St. Paul area.
But there will be no need to dial a 1 before the extra area codes, and callers will not be billed for a long-distance call.
“Whatever was a local call will remain a local call,” said Burl Haar, a representative from the Public Utilities Commission, which approved the new plan.
But it will be life as usual for those who make use of the University’s five-digit phone number system. For those trying to reach the University’s switchboard from St. Paul residences off campus, however, the new codes will mean more number punching.
“It’ll be inconvenient, to say the least,” said Dennis Hartzell, a manager in electric utilities for University Facilities Management.
Hartzell lives in the city of St. Paul, but his office is in Minneapolis. That means he’ll have to dial 10 numbers to reach his office.
Officials at the Public Utilities Commission said changes are necessary, in part because the increasing number of cellular telephones is soaking up the pool of available phone numbers.