The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 31, 2013

Local weather hotline may hang it up soon

By Cody Neff
Register-Herald Reporter

— If you’re one of the hundreds of people in Beckley who like to get your time and weather from the hotline, you might be in for a surprise soon. According to officials at Electronic Telecommunications, the service could use a sponsor and a savior to keep it from going away.

“That number has been in service since 1957,” sales manager Debbie Scott said. “I have a few companies that I’m talking to and each one of them is familiar with the service. The phone lines are the minimum cost. We own the phone lines and if I don’t have somebody to sponsor them or to pay us for the phone lines then I have to turn it off. Everybody’s in to make a little bit of money and just having the phone lines there is costing us money.

“The phone lines run about $250 a month for five phone lines. The equipment, if it’s rented from us, would be about $200. If they purchase some used equipment then it’d be about $4,500 to $5,000. Out of pocket, per month, it’s going to run between $250 and $500 to save the service.”

Right now if you call the hotline at 304-252-5711, a recording comes on and says “Due to a lack of business support, the time and weather will be discontinued as of October 31 of 2013. If you are a local business interested in advertising and keeping the service in place, contact us at 1-888-746-4381, extension 5310.”

Despite what some would say, Scott says the hotline still gets a lot of use in the modern age.

“It still gets about 700 to 1,000 calls a day, so It’s got a good percentage of people who call it every day,” she said. “I have about a handful of companies that are interested in sponsoring the service. I’m hoping they come through.

“They are making some decisions, hopefully between today and Thursday. If they come back with all answers of ‘no’ then I’ll have to turn it off. I have people who keep calling me and saying, ‘Please don’t take the number off.’”

Scott says she hopes the community gets to keep the hotline as she knows it still helps a lot of people.

“Even though people just say, ‘Ugh, you can just get it on your cell phone,’ Why do a thousand people still call the number if you can just get it on a cell phone?” she said. “People do have their cell phone and still call. I have a man from one of the companies that’s interested in saving the number and he calls every day from the speed-dial on his phone. He wants to hear the weather forecast. Yeah, you can get weather on your phone too, but it’s kind of nice to have it talk to you instead of just looking at a screen.”

One woman says the hotline was one of the first numbers she learned and she knows a lot of people who will be hurting if the hotline goes away.

“There have been friends of mine who have been talking about it,” Meg Prince, who works accounts payable at The Register-Herald, said. “They’re the people who absolutely attached to their cell phones and get online all the time. They all know about it. I’d call myself ‘Neo-Amish,’ so I don’t do that. It’s just always been one of those things that we’ve had.

“Lewis Chevrolet had it for awhile. I think their contract ran out around September. I guess they were hoping that someone would step in, but I don’t know if people know about it. People have been talking and seems that a lot of people don’t know that it’s losing its sponsor and being canceled. They say, ‘Oh no! That’s can’t go away!’ Just as soon as it’s not there, people are going to be wondering where it went.”

An official at Lewis Chevrolet wasn’t available to explain why they decided to not renew their contract.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com