The plan for the new tower was first brought up to the city council in May of 2016. On November 20th, the Helix City Council held a public meeting about the plan for the tower.
Few showed up at the meeting, but those who did had some concerns. Concern was brought up about the negative effects of the radiofrequency of the tower, but Verizon says that the tower only puts off frequency if a person would be in the direct line of the tower.
The biggest concern that the public had was the effect that the tower could have on the Helix Telephone Company. Due to the lack of cell service in Helix, many customers still rely on landlines. Helix Telephone Company provides service for landlines at the school, city hall, library and other areas both in Helix, and outside of Helix.
Britney Butler, who lives in Helix and teaches at the school, has had Verizon as her provider for the last four years. Butler says that the service in Helix is not reliable and causes problems such as dropped calls. Butler, like many other families in Helix, has a landline at her house. “We never use it, but we definitely need it in case of an emergency,” she says.
If Verizon puts a cell tower in Helix, Helix Telephone customers could decide to get rid of their landlines and only use their cell phones to save money. Carrie Bennett, who works as the Helix City Recorder says, “ If Helix Phone Company loses customers inside of Helix, they probably wouldn't be able to afford to continue to give it to the people outside of Helix.”
The cell tower has not been officially approved and there is not a set date that construction will begin, but Bennett says, “I can't imagine any reason why it wouldn't be approved, so I imagine that construction will begin in Spring of 2018.” Bennett also said that construction could be delayed by snow.
Several different locations were looked at for the tower. The proposed tower would be built on land owned by Dennis Olson.The land is located on Richmond Lane, near the loading docks, behind the rodeo grounds. The tower would be a monopole and around 150 feet high and have space that Verizon could rent out to other cell carriers such as Sprint or AT&T.
There are not many options other than U.S. Cellular for cell carriers that provide service in Helix so the new tower could be a positive thing for those in Helix. “Some people at the meeting said that they would switch to Verizon,” Bennett says.
Another concern that was brought up was what would happen to the tower if Verizon decided that they didn't want to use it anymore. According to the contract, if Verizon chooses to abandon the tower, they would be required to take it down, and restore the land back to the way it was before the tower was built.
Living in a rural community without a reliable way of communication can be difficult. “Being in the middle of nowhere like we are out here, sometimes it’s really difficult to communicate with the outside world.” says Butler.