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AT&T to lease space at Stanton Heights fire station for antenna, equipment

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:17 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A new equipment shed installed on the grounds of the No. 7 fire station in Stanton Heights is part of a pilot program by the city to collect rent by allowing cell phone antennas to be installed on municipal properties.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A new equipment shed installed on the grounds of the No. 7 fire station in Stanton Heights is part of a pilot program by the city to collect rent by allowing cell phone antennas to be installed on municipal properties.

The newest equipment at one of Pittsburgh's fire stations has little to do with fighting fires.

A pilot project to generate income for the city allows AT&T to install a cellular telephone antenna and other equipment at the No. 7 fire station in the 4600 block of Stanton Avenue in Stanton Heights.

If the project is successful, it could expand to other city-owned buildings, said Duane Ashley, Pittsburgh's operations manager.

“We're hoping that this project will eventually turn into a 21st century revenue generator that doesn't require raising taxes,” Ashley said.

He describes the project as “low-impact” because, unlike tall cell phone towers, there are few obvious signs the equipment is there.

“Advances in technology have resulted in stealthy ways for cell phone companies to increase their coverage in urban areas without the aesthetic nightmare of having to put up large towers for the antennas, which wouldn't make it through the city's zoning process, anyway,” Ashley said.

AT&T will pay the city $2,200 a month to lease space for its equipment at the fire station in Stanton Heights, Ashley said.

“It's not a great deal of money now, but if it works out and we can expand it to other buildings, we could see a significant amount of revenue in the future,” he said.

AT&T has installed the “shed” — a 12-foot by 20-foot pre-fabricated fiberglass structure — to house telecommunications equipment that transmits and receives cell phone signals, said Brandy Bell-Truskey, spokeswoman for AT&T.

The 8-foot-wide by 5-foot-tall antenna will attach to the fire house's tallest section, the hose tower about 60 feet high, and paint will help it match the building, she said.

Increasing the number of cell antennas in the city is part of a more than $1 billion commitment AT&T made beginning in 2010 to improve the speed, reliability and performance of its system in Pennsylvania, Bell-Truskey said.

“We're part of the community and want to be good neighbors,” she said.

In rural or wooded areas, the visual impact of cell towers is reduced by disguising them as trees, she said.

To make them less visible in populated areas, they often are hidden in or on buildings.

“Cell sites are being built everywhere and people may not even know it,” Bell-Truskey said. “While towers are still used, there are many stealth antennas hidden in church steeples, bell towers and even in parking garages behind panels that are color-coded to match the buildings.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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