Plum Coulee resident June Letkeman is seeking change to what she says is unacceptable cell phone service in her community.
According to Letkeman, who is also a councillor for the Municipality of Rhineland, there is essentially no service in town and when there is a signal she says it isn't reliable in emergency situations, especially for the police officers that work in town and residents that don't own a landline. She says this issue was brought home during the Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm.
"I realize that most people that have a landline couldn't use it because we were out of hydro and we had no cell service at all, so if we would've had an emergency and had to call 9-1-1, we would have been in trouble," explained Letkeman.
"It's not acceptable in this day and age. We all pay dearly for our cell phones and we deserve to have service," she added.
As a result, Letkeman has started a petition bringing awareness to the issue and she plans to send it to all mobile providers in Manitoba as well as various politicians.
"It's just gone on too far and I'm finally trying to do something about it," she said, adding "I'm not sure I'm going to succeed but you don't get anywhere if you don't try."
As of interview time, the document had already garnered over 300 signatures.
Supporting Letkeman's campaign is the Altona Police Service, which works in Plum Coulee.
Police Chief Perry Batchelor has drafted a letter of support for the petition, explaining that since the agency began working in the community in 2008, it has had to adjust its operations at time as a direct result of the "extremely poor" cell service. In fact, the agency has gone so far as to install cell boosters on its fleet vehicles but Batchelor says the devices haven't resulted in much improvement.
In one instance, this poor service resulted in much confusion between emergency services and dispatchers during a medical emergency in Plum Coulee, which turned out to be a cocaine overdose. Batchelor explained that dispatch could not reach APS officers, who were already on scene, through cellular or FleetNet communications and nearly sent officers from another community to respond to the call.
"It is baffling that these gaps in service exist in this very populated, well-travelled part of our province," added Batchelor.
Meantime, an official with the Municipality of Rhineland says Council continues to lobby the Province of Manitoba to help improve cell service throughout the entire municipality.
The petition is available to be signed at the Winkler Co-op location in Plum Coulee, the municipal office on Main Ave., and at Prairie Foods.