The Montana Highway Patrol began using a new, non-emergency contact number today, June 17. The number was changed because AT&T decided to escalate the fee for that number up from a couple of hundred dollars a month to thousands.

"The previous provider was going to charge several thousand dollars per month for the toll free service," said Montana Department of Justice Spokesman John Barnes. "So by switching providers and by switching to a new number we are going to be saving taxpayers approximately 7,000 dollars a year."

The number is not a replacement for emergency calls and it is important for the public to continue calling 911 in any emergency. The Department of Justice recommends callers use the new number to report the following.

• Stranded motorists

• Hazardous road conditions

• Debris on the highway

• Suspicious activity at a rest area

• Intoxicated or dangerous drivers

The new non-emergency number is 1 (855) MHP-8777.

The Montana Department of Justice has switched from AT&T to Optimum because of the unexpected jump in price. The new fee for the state of Montana will be 800 dollars rather than 7,575 dollars per month.

John Barnes: