Steamboat Springs Pharmacist David Bonfiglio answers the telephone at his drug store in the small mining and railroad town of Oak Creek. On the other end is a health care worker calling in a prescription from the town of Hayden about 25 miles down the road.
The call would normally be long-distance, but Bonfiglio put in a toll-free number to keep his Hayden customers from calling pharmacies in Craig or Steamboat Springs.
"If they're really pinching pennies, they're going to call Steamboat to get a prescription instead of me, and that hurts my business. So I put in a toll-free number," Bonfiglio said.
While Bonfiglio has managed to avoid long-distance charges for his out-of-town customers, other residents in south Routt County have had to pay long-distance charges to call Hayden and Craig for years, and vice versa.
Steamboat Springs residents also have had to pay for phone calls to Craig, an increasingly important economic partner.
But thanks to Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, it won't be for long.
After Ellison's efforts lobbying the Public Utility Commission and U S West, local phone service will be expanded Feb. 1 for this part of northwest Colorado.
"The area is so intertwined now with employment and families and everything else, it is legitimate to make these calls local," Ellison said.
For example, Ellison said that 60 percent of the employees at Twentymile Coal Co. have Craig phone numbers. The coal company is in the middle of a triangle formed by Oak Creek, Hayden and Steamboat Springs.
Ellison said Qwest has finally followed through on promises made by U S West, the former telephone service owner, to expand local phone service.
"All these customers will be receiving notices (this week)," Ellison said Monday.
It is good news for people such as Bonfiglio.
"That's wonderful," Bonfiglio said. "It will save me money and it will also take away a barrier to my growth."