Can you hear me now? Verizon aims to beef up Basalt service |

Can you hear me now? Verizon aims to beef up Basalt service

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Midvalley residents, visitors and business owners who rely on Verizon Wireless coverage might have relief from poor service by fall.

The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday granted the first of two required approvals for a 70-foot-tall telecommunications pole camouflaged as a “faux pine tree.” The pole will be located at 155 Park Ave. in the Basalt Industrial Park, where businesses such as Valley Lumber are located.

Brendan Thompson of Pinnacle Consulting Inc., which was representing Verizon, said the wireless carrier is “well aware of the problem” with its service along Willits Lane in Basalt.

“There is definitely a need there,” he said.

Verizon customers in the Willits Town Center and the surrounding residential neighborhoods, Sopris Village, the Basalt Industrial Park and other areas grouse about poor coverage, dropped calls and slow data retrieval.

Many customers contend that poor service has deteriorated to bad service over the past six months.

Thompson said he learned from firsthand experience he couldn’t get the service required for telephone calls in part of the area.

When the council opened a public hearing on the proposal, a man in the audience simply called out, “Yay.”

Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt replied, “I think he speaks for everyone.”

Pinnacle’s application said the telecommunications pole itself is 60 feet tall. The structure extends another 10 feet higher in the air because of foliage.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum asked if it would be better to simply paint the pole gray. The problem with fake trees, he said, is they look like fake trees.

Thompson said strides have been made in the appearance of camouflage for telecommunications towers. They now have simulated, three-dimensional bark, he said.

Councilman Mark Kittle noted that Verizon recently installed 20-foot towers in Snowmass Village. He asked why a 70-foot tower was necessary in Basalt. Thompson explained that a series of 20-foot towers was required in Snowmass Village because of the contours of the land. In Basalt, a single, taller tower will provide coverage to Highway 82, he said.

The faux pine will tower over surrounding natural trees, which are only about 25 feet tall right now.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the first reading of an ordinance allowing the tower. A second reading and public hearing will be held July 11.

While the good news is that Verizon customers can expect relief, the bad news is construction of the tower and associated infrastructure won’t be completed until fall. Pinnacle’s application said it would take approximately 90 days to build the site. The best-case scenario is improved cell service by mid-October.

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