This 2011 photo shows the Verlot Ranger Station. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

This 2011 photo shows the Verlot Ranger Station. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

County, Forest Service paying for vital pay phone in Verlot

Its brief removal last year sparked concerns about how hikers and residents would reach 911.

VERLOT — The public made itself clear.

People want to be able to call 911 from Verlot. The ranger station there is one of the few places with a public phone on the Mountain Loop Highway, which runs from Granite Falls to Darrington.

Now, Snohomish County and the U.S. Forest Service are wrapping up details for their new plan to fund the phone, which was briefly removed last year. The area has little to no cell service.

The phone should stay in operation for the foreseeable future, said Jason Biermann, the county director of emergency management.

“We all recognize that this pay phone is vital in making 911 calls,” said Erica Keene, the Forest Service’s Verlot corridor manager. “It does decrease (emergency) response times … We all are public and working to serve the community, and we all recognize the need to keep the phone here.”

Frontier owns about 350 pay phones in Washington. Many aren’t being used as much as they once were.

In November, The Daily Herald reported that the Verlot phone was slated for removal. Television news stories followed.

The coverage moved a lot of folks to reach out to the agencies involved, Keene said.

Two days after The Herald’s story, Frontier announced that the phone had been removed and then replaced pending a conversation about its future. Company leaders also have taken part in the talks that followed, spokesman Javier Mendoza said Friday.

“Frontier understands the importance of this telephone,” he said in a prepared statement.

Since February, the phone has been used at least nine times to contact Snohomish County 911, records show.

The new funding plan should be final in the coming months, Keene said. The Forest Service will purchase the phone, and the county will pay for monthly service. Altogether, the cost is likely in the hundreds of dollars.

“It was one of the critical links,” Biermann said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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