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Communication tower network coming together

Aug. 08, 2017

SIREN—There are certainly hiccups when it comes to creating a new communication tower network but Rhonda Reynolds, Burnett County’s Emergency Management Director, sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s possible by the end of 2014 we will have six of our towers up and running,” she predicted. “I could easily see that happening.”

But she couched that optimism with a dash of realism.

“But I don’t know if we will be able to make the switch to narrow band frequencies at that same time — that’s an engineering question,” she stated.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a move designed to provide more radio band space, authorized the move to narrow banding. The move allows emergency service providers (law enforcement, fire and EMS) to all communicate via the same frequency.

When you consider the original deadline for the switch was Jan. 1, 2012, the fact that the move has yet to be done is not the best of news. But six out of nine towers by the end of the year isn’t bad.

“The FCC has granted us at least two extensions on making the move to narrow banding,” Reynolds explained. “I think the FCC is reluctant to come down (penalty-wise) on a county like ours when we are able to provide demonstrable progress.”

She said the towers are broken into two different contracts — one with seven, the other with two.

“On the 7-site contract, everything is great with five of them,” Reynolds continued. “Work is being completed at five of the seven sites.”

Those sites include new Mosaic Telcom-owned towers both at the fairgrounds in Grantsburg and on Penta Hill, new county-owned towers at Karlsburg Hill and the Burnett County Government Center and co-locating county equipment on the Dairyland Power tower in Barronnett.

The two problem sites in the 7-site contract are Hertel and Danbury.

“Since February we have been trying to get a memo-of-understanding (MOU) signed with the tribe to place our equipment on the Hertel water tower,” Reynolds said. “We haven’t reached an agreement with the St. Croix tribe so for the last two months we have been looking into alternative sites — either nearby Verizon or Crown Castle towers.”

Reynolds said the county has submitted a co-location application with Verizon but has yet to hear back. The tower in question is adjacent to Highway 70 just west of Hertel.

The other problem site has been Danbury but that situation could resolve itself in the coming months.

“Joe Daniels Construction, the company doing most of the tower work, is based in Madison and to this point has not been willing to send a work crew just to work on the Danbury site if they couldn’t do Hertel at the same time,” she expressed. “But they are tired of waiting on Hertel and it is to the point where they are going to come up and do as much as they can before the snow flies.”

The 2-site contract seems to be in the ‘waiting for signatures’ stage.

“We have completed a draft agreement with American Tower Company (ATC) to co-locate on their tower (a 400-foot tower near Webb Lake) — it just needs signatures,” Reynolds indicated.

Likewise, the county is close to an agreement with Sirentel on the other tower.

“We were going to try and co-locate on a Verizon tower in the Rooney Lake area,” Reynolds explained. “But because that tower was at its structural capacity, we needed to look for an alternative.”

As it happens, Sirentel was expanding its service into the Town of Jackson and the county has negotiated to co-locate its equipment on that tower.

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