The question of who actually owns a telephone number is at the heart of a dispute between United Savings Bank and US WEST Communications (formerly Mountain Bell) that will be aired before the Utah Public Service Commission on March 22.

The phone numbers in question are being used at the Tri-Arc Hotel in Salt Lake. United recently took control of the hotel through foreclosure proceedings stemming from the hotel's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The hotel accumulated a $56,594 telephone bill that has not been paid because of the filing.US WEST says the bank must pay the outstanding bill if it wants the numbers to remain unchanged. The company says both Utah case law and assignment tariff regulations support its position.

United says changing the numbers would create additional financial burdens for a business that is already having money problems. The bank claims US WEST is trying to circumvent its obligation to seek redress through the bankruptcy court against Tri-Arc's former owners. United also alleges US WEST was negligent in monitoring the former Tri-Arc account, because it failed to require sufficient deposits to protect itself.

US WEST has requested dismissal of the complaint and prompt action by the PSC. The company claims delaying a decision benefits United because the hotel continues to use the old numbers without having to settle the outstanding bill.