Over 20-Year Old Village Plat Filed, Cell Phone Tower Project Moves Forward

By Benjamin Cox on December 2, 2023 at 9:09am

The Village of South Jacksonville Board of Trustees officially passed the plat for the Coultas addition to the village Thursday night, more than 20 years after the plat was drawn up.

The Coultas Family originally deeded the property where the Village’s Emergency Services building currently sits on Sequoia Drive.

The plat was expected to be filed sometime on Friday at the Morgan County Courthouse.

The plat had only recently come into question when surveyors contracted by AT&T totaled up 4 separate requests for utility easements to a property adjacent to the Ameren-Illinois substation on West Vandalia where the company is attempting to construct a new cellphone tower.

The cellphone tower has been many years in the making in the village due to poor coverage by cell service, despite being located as a covered area on AT&T’s service maps.

Director of External Affairs for AT&T from their Springfield Offices, Chris Warwick was on hand to see the vote through Thursday night by the Village Board.

Warwick says there is still some work to do: “The right of way has been corrected so that takes care of Easement #1 and #2 that we requested. We are now re-evaluating Easement #3 and #4, which is for the utilities.”

At previous meetings, South Jacksonville Village President Dick Samples had requested that AT&T contact Illinois Power for the remaining utility easements, as Samples believes that those easements should be an agreement with Illinois Power and not the village. Warwick says that he’s unsure if Illinois Power has been contacted about the easements, but AT&T has secured the lease to the property.

Warwick says construction to completion is still about a year away or more, depending on the resolution to the final two easements: “We are starting into winter so that would probably make things a little more difficult to dig for the caissons, but typically it’s about a year for construction to completion. The tower as a structure, as I’ve mentioned at other meetings, will go up quickly, but then, we will still have to bring the fiber and the equipment in. Also, there will be a brown hut that will house the equipment for us or if any other carriers join in, they will have their own huts there, as well. Then, it will be integrating it into the network.”

Warwick says the coverage of the tower would likely only cover South Jacksonville proper stretching from approximately Morton Avenue to just north of the Interstate 72 interchange and then to the very west at Lincoln Avenue, and to Nichols Parks to the east: “We have other towers in other parts of the greater Jacksonville community, so you don’t want to bleed into those other towers. You kind of want to bring covers to that edge. It will really expand the coverage area. The big thing is that we wanted to put the tower where the issues are at, and that’s Vandalia, downtown South Jacksonville so to speak, that’s what’s going to cover it.”

The tower will have the capacity to provide space for other cellphone carriers, with likely two to three more service providers estimated to join once the tower is up and functioning. Warwick did not provide an exact time frame on when construction would begin. The South Jacksonville zoning board granted a building permit for the cell tower back in the early Fall.