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      Hearing on new area code options calls for public comment in Utica

      The first of six public hearings about the creation of a new area code for Northern and Central New York, where the 315 area code is running out of new phone numbers, is being held in Utica on Monday afternoon.

      State Senator Pattie Ritchie called for the Public Service Commission (PSC) to allow residents and businesses weigh in on the plan.

      The hearings in Utica, Watertown, and Syracuse this week each follow an educational forum where the public can first learn about the proposals.

      The PSC is considering two primary options for a creating a new area code for all or part of the 18 counties that use area code 315. The first is to use an overlay method where all existing customers would keep their number and new service lines would use the new area code. The other option is a geographic split where one region would keep the 315 area code and the other region would keep their same seven digit telephone number but change to the new area code

      "Making changes to our region's area code would have real consequences for businesses-still trying to bounce back from recession-that could incur additional costs or customer loss as a result of having to change their phone number," said Senator Ritchie. "I am pleased that the PSC will be hosting these public forums to give those who would be affected an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal."

      In a recent letter, Senator Ritchie stated that the PSC had not adequately demonstrated the need for the new area code. She cited the population decline, weakened economy, and hundreds of thousands of available phone numbers within the 315 area.

      It was previously thought that the 315 area code would run out by 2015 , but Ritchie says that is the fourth time estimated "exhaust date." The previous three were 2002, 2010 and 2013.

      Those who cannot make the public hearings are encouraged to weigh in online (click on "Search," and enter 07-C-1486 in the "Search by Case Number" field) or by telephone at 1-800-335-2120.

      The educational forums and public hearings are scheduled for:

      Utica - August 5, 2013Utica State Office Building, 207 Genesee St., Utica, NY 13501Educational forum: 2:00 p.m.Public statement hearing: 3:00 p.m.Educational Forum: 6:00 p.m.Public statement hearing: 7:00 p.m.

      Watertown - August 6, 2013Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington Street, Watertown, NY 13601Educational forum: 2:00 p.m.Public statement hearing: 3:00 p.m.Educational Forum: 6:00 p.m.Public statement hearing: 7:00 p.m.

      Syracuse - August 7, 2013Senator John J. Hughes State Office building, 333 East Washington Street, Syracuse, NY 13202Educational forum: 2:00 p.m.Public statement hearing: 3:00 p.m.Educational Forum: 6:00 p.m.Public statement hearing: 7:00 p.m.