LOCK HAVEN - Verizon cell service should improve once a new tower is installed above Lock Haven University.
The 152-foot monopole installation is designed to take the place of multiple roof antennas now 63 feet in the air, atop Gross Hall. It is expected to do a better job than the antennas, City Council heard Monday evening, and should reach a section of Allison Township, north of Flemington, where service is now spotty.
Council approved the tower at a public hearing.
The monopole will sit next to the water tower above the hill dorms at Lock Haven University. Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless, needs this new site, since Gross is one of the residence halls scheduled to be demolished.
The monopole will bring with it a new 12-foot wide access road, a prefabricated equipment shelter measuring 11.5 feet x 20 feet, and an eight-foot chainlink fence. The project also will extend the current fencing at the water tower, according to Verizon Wireless attorney Richard M. Williams.
The road will be gated at the bottom and secured at the top. It probably won't be used more than once or twice a month, according to John Baptista, project manager for Advantage Engineers. It should not affect the main hiking path in the vicinity.
No sewer or water service is needed, and the only light will be a regular bulb above the equipment shelter's door.
One house sits closer to the tower than the 250 feet called for in the zoning regulations, Williams said, and the tower also will be closer to the southwestern property line than the 152 feet stated in the regulations. The city zoning hearing board granted variances on both issues in April, he said.
The affected property owners were notified of Monday evening's hearing and it was advertised, Councilman William E. Baney announced. The property owners did not attend Monday and have not commented at any time during the process, including when the matter came before the city planning commission, Zoning Officer Cyndi Walker reported.
Councilman Richard L. Conklin asked about the county communications center near Lock Haven Hospital, not far from the proposed tower site as the crow flies, and Williams said there should be no effect. Cell towers can operate well even if they are within 10 feet of each other, he said.
Edward Robbins, a pilot, asked about the impact on the local fly-way. Williams replied that both the FAA and PennDOT have examined and approved the site with that in mind.
Councilwoman Lynda Carey asked for more information about the electromagnetic field around the monopole. Mark Rubin, a radio frequency engineer with R.F. Services Inc., said the field will be 500 times lower than the safety benchmark set by the federal government.
Construction time should be only six to eight weeks, council heard.
Baney chaired the hearing and council's regular meeting, in the absence of Mayor Richard P. Vilello Jr. and Council Vice President Stephen L. Stevenson. Both are in Pittsburgh for the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities. Other council members expect to join them later in the week.
Vilello is president of PLCM this year.