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County looks to strengthen the signal

County looks to strengthen the signal County looks to strengthen the signal

Committee seeks to build additional cell towers to improve service in county

A county committee took the first step Tuesday to improve cellphone access in Taylor County.

Members of the county’s buildings, grounds and parks committee approved hiring Shane Begley of Begley Wireless to evaluate a county-owned communication tower near Lake Esadore and to help with developing a plan for a county-wide buildout of cellular towers to serve the entire county. The cost of the contract is $22,000 with money to come from the tower revenue accounts.

Taylor County has a successful track record when it comes to cellular towers. The county currently owns a tower by College St. in the city of Medford and in 2019 collected nearly $100,000 in lease revenue from the cellular service providers with about $2,000 of expenses due to upkeep and utilities. The northern half of the county has numerous communication dead spots leading to concerns about public safety. The county is looking to be proactive in improving this communication system by having additional towers built on countyowned parcels. While tower construction has a lot of upfront expense, Begley estimated expense at $250,000 from start to finish, buildings and grounds supervisor Jeff Ludwig said the payback potential is high.

“The potential revenue for multiple towers is pretty significant,” he said. The existing tower cost the county $79,539 to build with AT& T paying an additional $55,000 and Sprint paying $9,500.

According to Begley the first step will be to determine if the Lake Esadore tower is structurally sound to carry the weight of cellular equipment. He noted that with the population center around that tower that it is a good location for attracting providers to expand there. He said it will be a slower process for the buildout of other towers in the county to fill in service dead spots, he projected that a five-year plan is likely feasible. Begley said that before they would commit to building any towers, they would need a firm commitment from a provider that they would want to locate there. He suggested the county should prepare a formal letter to share with the carriers stating the intention to expand the service in the area for the public safety aspect.

Committee members Jim Gebauer and Dan Makovsky raised the question of how building more cell towers would impact the county’s ongoing efforts to expand high speed internet in the area. Begley said that it could integrate with that effort and that there would need to be communication between buildings and grounds and the broadband to avoid duplication.

In other business, committee members: * Approved a motion to recommend the county purchase the eight-acre Bauer property and the 20+ acre Miller property. Both parcels are adjacent to the fairgrounds and county highway shop property. According to Ludwig, the Bauer property has buildings that would be immediately usable by the county for such things as sheriff’s department evidence storage as well as for use by the highway and buildings and grounds departments. Any land purchase would involve numerous committees and take action by the full county board. Gebauer said he was more in favor of acquiring the Bauer property but said he felt it should be up to the highway committee to take action on it. He said he would support bringing it up for discussion but wouldn’t commit to saying he was in favor of the idea.

★ Expressed concern over the recent logging at the Camp 8 county campground. While the campground is a county park it is within the county forest and was included in a recent logging project. Gebauer said he had received comments from citizens complaining about it.

* Passed a resolution recognizing Claude Bormann who retired from the department this fall.

Shane Begley of Begley Wireless spoke to members of the Taylor County Buildings, Grounds and Parks committee on Tuesday about options to utilize an existing county-owned communication tower near Lake Easadore for cellular telephone service providers as well as plans to do a build-out to improve cell service across the county.