Cell phone coverage sketchy for Sprint, Verizon users

Water tower project expected to be completed July 8

July 6, 2012 

The nearing completion of Harrisonville’s water tower painting project should bring an added sigh of relief to Sprint cell phone customers who live in or frequent visit the city.

Service to Sprint customers in the area has been sketchy since early May when the water tank went out of service for maintenance. Verizon coverage has also experienced difficulties, Jerry Gibbs, director of public relations, said.

The painting project is expected to be completed by Sunday, July 8.

Both Sprint and Verizon have contracts with the City of Harrisonville to have their signal antennas mounted on the tower.

The water tower went out of service May 7 so that Utility Service, a Georgia-based company that performs maintenance on water towers all over the Midwest, could paint the interior and exterior of the tank.

According to Gibbs, both of the carriers signed contracts that stated they would be responsible for removing their equipment from the towers within 90 days prior to the start of maintenance contracts.

“They were both up there under contract with the city which stated when we were doing maintenance they would remove their equipment and install portable equipment while we’re working on the tower,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs gave notice of the water tower closure to Sprint and Verizon at the end of January.

“They received that notice in time for us to award that contract, and by the time we got that contract signed they had to have their equipment moved off,” Gibbs said. “They got their equipment off just as the contractors were moving in.”

After moving their antenna off of the water tower, Sprint elected to mount their temporary antennas at 40 feet on a utility pole south of the water tower.

Verizon chose to mount their antennas at 80 feet on a mobile “Communication on Wheels” device west of the tower.

Not soon after, the city began fielding multiple questions from mainly Sprint customers who were experiencing little to no reception on their mobile phones.

“The wireless carriers, if they understand their service and equipment, would need to be up not too high that they’re sending their signal into the tank bowl, but there’s a hill right there at the high school so they need to be up so where they can at least get over it,” Gibbs said. “Verizon apparently chose the right distance and Sprint did not quite get up high enough.”

Gibbs added that there initially there were also additional communication problems between Sprint representatives and their service contractors, which added to the headache for customers who eventually called the city for answers to their questions.

“I think people have been pretty patient,” he said. “But they’re two months into this and some of the services haven’t been improved and they’re starting to run out of patience.”

As the painting project wraps up, the most noticeable difference being a larger “Harrisonville” typography and a logo of Harrisonville High School’s logo, Gibbs said the cell phone companies have inquired as to when they’ll be able to restore service at full capacity.

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