Photo Gallery: North Adams communications towers


NORTH ADAMS -- A 100-foot communications tower is expected to be in place within 30 days as a temporary replacement to the two towers that were toppled in a windstorm last month.

The temporary tower will bolster cellphone signals throughout the most northerly sections of Berkshire County while plans for a new, 195-foot permanent tower wend their way through the permitting process in the city, according to Corydon Thurston, owner of North Adams Tower Co.

That permanent tower is expected to be operational by Nov. 1.

"It will be a bigger, stronger, self-supporting tower, a little higher than the others to accommodate everybody (leasing space on the tower)," Thurston said. "But I don't think it (the height) will bother anybody."

On March 29, powerful winds helped take down two radio broadcast towers in North Adams just off the Mohawk Trail near the Florida border. The collapse of the 150-foot and 160-foot towers, owned by North Adams Tower Co., left customers of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint without cell service, and knocked WUPE 100.1 FM and the local broadcast of public radio station WFCR of Amherst off the air.

Due to redundancies, emergency frequencies used by public safety officials and first responders continued functioning, officials have said.

A few days after the collapse, AT&T and Verizon had deployed temporary, portable cellular broadcasting units near the site of the towers that restored some local cell service, although some dead zones remain.

Once the temporary tower is up, all the former tenants of the old towers will move their broadcasting equipment to the new structure and disassemble and remove their portable broadcasting units, Thurston said.

The temporary tower will be anchored with several tons of concrete to guard against any further weather anomalies, he added.

"This is step two of the overall plan," Thurston said.

Because the falling towers missed the buildings holding the cellphone companies' technology, the new temporary tower will simply be connected to those, resulting in enhanced signals and data speeds.

Thurston said the cause of the collapse is under investigation. The wind speeds were not as high as originally thought, but it seems they were changing direction rapidly and the possibility of icing on the towers is being examined.

"We may never know," Thurston said. "But the legs and the foundation are being looked at carefully. We want to be sure and learn everything we can before we build the new tower."

Thurston expressed gratitude to the public safety community, and to the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office and the Pittsfield Fire Department for providing aid in keeping the emergency frequencies on the air. He mentioned the rapid response by Verizon and AT&T as well.

"They've all been super," he said.

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright said he is pleased that there is progress, although he is still getting messages from folks who are still having spotty cellphone service.

He asked that anyone who had good service before the collapse, but who still have no service at all since the collapse, should contact him via email, provide their name, service provider and phone number, so he can supply that data to the phone companies who will try to address the issues.

Alcombright's email address is ralcombright@northadams-ma.gov.

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com
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