Village Trustees, Zoning Board Hear Plan for New Cell Tower

By Jeremy Coumbes on June 23, 2023 at 10:56am

Andrew Flowers, Senior Real Estate and Construction Manager for AT&T Mobility in Illinois and Wisconsin (left) gives a presentation to members of the south Jacksonville Zoning Board and Board of Trustees Thursday night.

AT&T officials spent more than an hour with residents of South Jacksonville last night discussing the latest proposed location for a new cell phone tower.

During a joint meeting of the Village Board of Trustees and Village Zoning Board, representatives from AT&T presented their request for re-zoning for the placement of a cell tower at 317 Vandailia Street. The proposal would see the 195-foot tall tower placed behind the Ameren Illinois substation, just north of the Village Fire and Police facility.

Andrew Flowers, the Senior Real Estate and Construction Manager for AT&T Mobility in Illinois and Wisconsin told the group of both boards as well as several members of the public, that after reviewing upwards of nine previously suggested locations for the tower, this latest site offers the best service in the shortest amount of lead time.

Flowers answered questions from all present on issues from the quality of service as opposed to another location, to the health and safety in the immediate vicinity of the tower.

Police Chief Eric Hansell had concerns such as the possible interference with emergency service communications, which Flowers said could be solved with filters that AT&T would install on the tower. Hansel said following the discussion, he understands the concerns on both sides of the issue and was pleased with the information that was provided.

I agree most residents don’t want to look at a cell phone tower next to their house. So if you don’t want it here, well then the people over here are not going to want it, and then the people over there are not going to want it, but everybody wants their phone to work. So somebody somewhere has to give, and this being already in a commercial site with a substation on it is probably the best spot to go with the least amount of impact to the residences in the town.

WLDS News: “You had questions about its proximity to both the substation and houses, and also the fire and police department, were those alleviated tonight?

Chief Hansell: “They were. Yeah with the explanation of the crumple factor of the pole and how it would fall to the ground if something catastrophic happened, I believe we are going to be safe with where it’s going.”

Flowers said the monopole structures of this size are designed to crumple into three sections that will fall onto their own area and not over onto other structures in the event of a collapse. He said they are generally designed to withstand 130 mile per hour winds with ice on them, so it would take an event similar to an F5 tornado to down the tower.

Village President Dick Samples said he called for the joint meeting in an effort to help speed up the process with both boards being able to hear the proposal at the same time.

Chairman of the Village Zoning Board, Larry Moore says they plan to meet next week for discussion and a vote on the re-zoning request. He says he felt good following the meeting that any concerns his board may have had were addressed.

Moore says he would like to hear more from the public during their meeting next Thursday. “I would like to have public input, that means a lot to me. People from the area that have had dropped calls and things like that.

And [Flowers] made a valid point in there that since the pandemic, there are so many more folks depending upon this for their occupations from home, and schooling. We got into the Zoom meeting thing. We need better service. This is the 21st century and we can’t let our people down.”

The discussion also touched on instances of residents in the cellular dead zone being unable to place a call to 911 during an emergency, something Moore said was a problem that needed to be fixed as soon as possible.

Samples says although he is not entirely in favor of the site, it’s ultimately up to the boards and moreover the citizens of the village to make that decision. “This is the first time AT&T has been here in probably a year, and I thought they gave a very good presentation. I think they answered all the questions we had for them.

They have offered to come back next Thursday which will be another meeting with the plans commission only, and anyone who wants to come and express any problems they have had with AT&T, please come.

I think this tower is…I don’t really like the location but I don’t have a vote. But I think this tower is on the right path to solving this problem out here.”

Flowers said AT&T already has approval for a lease with Ameren Illinois for the site, and once the village were to approve, and after all of the remaining permitting is acquired from state and federal authorities, he estimated construction could begin just after the first of the year.

If the zoning board approves the re-zoning request next week, the matter would then be taken up by the Board of Trustees for final approval during their regular meeting on July 6th.

No time for the zoning board meeting was set last night. Moore and Samples said as soon as a time is decided, it will be disseminated to the public for all who would like to attend.

In related news, Flowers mentioned during the presentation that crews would soon break ground to install the new tower that is going up on West Walnut Street next to Casey’s General Store.