An overflow crowd gathered recently outside the city offices in Carlsbad for the California Public Utilities Commission hearing on a possible area code change for North County residents.
More than 300 attended the Sept. 4 hearing, held in the council chambers at City Hall.
At issue was a split for the southwestern portion of the state, which uses the 760 area code.
The majority of those who attended the meeting in Carlsbad spoke out against the split, but in support of an overlay.
The proposed new area code is 442, but if there is an overlay instead, the area codes would be the same, but a “1” would need to be dialed before numbers within the same community.
Most who addressed the commission at the meeting said it was the financial impacts that would take a toll on their business. And although many of those who addressed the commission were small business owners, a number of representatives from large business showed up to argue the proposed change.
“Tri-City Medical Center is in favor of the overlay,” Jeff Segal, public relations director for Tri-City Medical Center, said. Segal went on to say that conservative estimates for a complete area code change are $145,000, but that the overlay would be substantially less.
Segal went on to tell the commission that the financial hardship for the facility is compounded by the fact that there have been three area code changes and two zip code changes in the past, with a substantial cost each time.
However, the impacts of the proposed change are much greater than just financial.
Maureen Barton knows you can’t put a price on the cost of the area code change to her.
Barton’s son, Brian, a 29-year-old graduate of Rancho Buena Vista High School, went missing from the Seattle area in 2005.
“Some people have never even considered what it would be like for people like us,” she said. “I can’t even relate to the financial aspect.”
Along with her sister Bonnie and friend Susan Satterly, Barton stood outside the city offices, protesting the change, holding bright yellow signs with Brian’s photo.
There are so many agencies helping with the search, Barton said, including those affiliated with the “America’s Most Wanted” show, which the family recently finished taping, that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to contact each and every one to notify them of the change.
If a new area code is put into use, the old one could be used for only six months more. Not much comfort for a mother whose son has been missing for four years.
“He even has his phone number tattooed on his arm,” Barton said. “If the area code is changed, not only will his own identification be inaccurate, but all the flyers will have the wrong number.”
Commissioners told the crowd they would not be making a decision until later in the year.