Upgrades planned on three county cell phone towers

Rena Rogers, Cook County information systems director, gave an update on her efforts to make the operation and maintenance of the county’s 11 communications towers more sustainable at the county board meeting on Tuesday, July 8. Rogers said she has been working on a service model to calculate the total cost of ownership, so that the county – and not contractors such as AT&T or Verizon – can set the rates it charges to lease space for their equipment.

Concerning the towers, Rogers said work will soon be under way to improve cell phone coverage at three of the sites.

The first, the Gunflint Mid Trail tower, is on U.S. Forest Service land, and AT&T is in the process of submitting an application to the FCC. However, the county needs an amendment to its special use permit to put up a building to house the necessary equipment. Rogers said a meeting has been set with the Forest Service to discuss the amendment.  The board approved submission of a letter authorizing required environmental and historic area reviews.

The Gunflint tower is also on Forest Service land and cannot support cell service equipment. Rogers said options there include adding on to the tower, or building a second tower. Because the tower is already 180 feet tall, Rogers said an addition would result in a need to install lights (a requirement for towers taller than 200 feet). Such a move would likely create controversy, because of the tower’s proximity to the Boundary Waters, so the better option is construction of a second tower, which Rogers said AT&T has committed to. “Everybody is sensitive to that area of the Trail,” she said.

Construction is also scheduled for the Verizon tower site on the hill above Grand Marais. Although the project to build a replacement tower started last May, an engineering error resulted in the new tower being built only 12 feet from the old one, making it impossible to install the 4G equipment, which was then mounted temporarily at a lower height. Sometime this month, Rogers said, a 375-foot-tall crane will be brought to the site to take down the old tower, and then add an additional 60 feet to the new tower. The cell equipment will be moved up, resulting in better reception.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald