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Shaler OKs cell tower at Undercliff Volunteer Fire Co.

| Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Area residents could soon have improved Verizon Wireless coverage, thanks to a 95-foot stealth flagpole communications tower planned for the Undercliff Volunteer Fire Co.

The Shaler board of commissioners unanimously voted Nov. 14 to allow Horvath Communications Inc. to install a monopole on Verizon's behalf at the 700 Mt. Royal Blvd. fire station. The monopole will contain the device's six antennas.

According to June planning commission minutes, the device would require metal grating pads and a diesel generator. Equipment would be contained within a monopole.

An 8-foot barbed-wire fence would surround it, and the pole would stand behind a guardrail over a hill and approximately 25-feet from the building

“I realize that sometimes communication towers aren't necessarily the most popular development. I spent all afternoon in the Commonwealth Court fighting for towers,” said Joseph Perotti, of Sittig & Cortese, who represented Horvath and Verizon at the November meeting.

William Sandoval, Verizon Wireless radio frequency department engineer, explained that the carrier learned about its current coverage gap through customer complaints and other factors.

Perotti noted that wireless providers prefer to attach their antennas to existing structures such as towers, water tanks, schools or other tall buildings.

“Unfortunately, in this circumstance, there are no tall, suitable structures to attach its antennas to.”

“The terrain in this part of the community is very challenging for any design that we need to complete,” said Sandoval.

George Francis, Verizon site acquisition consultant, found the fire department a suitable location for a monopole.

The towers are certified to withstand 90-mph winds and use frequencies “on par with the strength of a baby monitor,” said Perotti at the planning meeting.

Township Manager Tim Rogers asked if the frequency would interrupt baby monitors, TVs and Internet connections in nearby homes.

“No, because we are operating in a different set of preferences designated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission),” explained Sandoval.

Furthermore, Perotti said that the FCC “constantly” monitors frequencies of towers this size and if Verizon were to propagate frequencies outside of the agency's limits, the carrier would face steep fines and risk losing its license.

Although Verizon Wireless would serve as the anchor tenant, the monopole could accommodate other wireless providers if they saw coverage gaps, as well. The local fire department and EMS also could use the equipment.

The fire department will fly an American flag from the pole.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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