New Highland Baptist Church Cell Phone Tower

January 16, 2024

County staff has received the following two attachments from Network Towers:

VA-T20.01 Kings Charter building permit letter 011124

VA-T20.01 Kings Charter SW Determination 7460-1

They plan on extending their 81’ tall tower adjacent to King’s Charter by 20 additional feet and contracting with Verizon Wireless to locate on the extension. The plans were sent to the County on January 16 and a building permit was applied for. The building permit process averages 2-3 weeks, however, due to the lack (or reduced) service from Verizon in this area and the public safety concerns associated with that, we are expediting this process and it should be completed by the end of the week.  

As you may have read in previous updates, we were told that neither of the two towers in the area would be added to until the end of 2024. We were very pleased to see a permit was applied for at this particular tower already. We have already contacted Verizon to see how much time would be removed from this project and as soon as we hear back from them we will update you.

County staff received word from Verizon Wireless staff that they plan on locating on existing cell phone towers with existing providers as opposed to building new towers that could take a significant amount of time. We are excited to hear this news and share it with you!  Verizon staff also stated that the installations should be complete in the second half of 2024, however, Board Members Faye Pritchard (Ashland District) and Angela Kelly-Wiecek (Chickahominy District) and County staff have offered to assist Verizon Wireless in any way we can to expedite these two projects. We know that this does not help the current issues you are having but we will continue to pursue options to get this done faster.

We are also still pursuing the options of reduced bills and breaking contracts without penalties with them. This was expressed to them in the community meeting on May 31 and several supplemental conversations County staff have had with them. At this moment, we do not have any confirmation on those requests.

Thank you for your patience as we work with the Verizon team.

Overview

A Community meeting was held at the Highland Baptist Church on May 15, 2023 at 7 p.m. in the church’s gymnasium.  The meeting was for Verizon personnel to address Hanover citizens regarding the decreased service from the new cell tower that was built on the church property.

Approximately 120 residents in the area attended the meeting. Russ Chandler and Steve Kephart with Verizon attended the meeting and Russ was the main speaker.

Questions asked, concerns raised:

  • This has been a problem for 3 years.
  • Can we break our contract?
  • Can we get discounts on our bills?  We have heard Verizon had provided discounts before for issues.
  • Who do we talk to when we have issues?
  • I don’t receive texts in my own house from my family when I am upstairs or downstairs.
  • We have major concerns from a safety perspective when an issue happens. 911 can’t be called when my phone just says SOS.
    • Similarly:  I have had to get hotel rooms so that I could use my phone for health/safety related reasons.  Who will pay me back for that expense?  What’s  the answer?
  • From a Fox Head resident:  I have continuous signal loss in my neighborhood.  This statement was supported by another citizen that mentioned the Brown Grove community, Food Lion area, and Craney Island.
  • Did Verizon let everyone know about the extender signal reduction?
    • Response:  No but we should have.
  • Can Verizon locate on other towers in the area or get a new area?  There is one on Cheroy Road.
    • Response:  We could and that is something we are pursuing.
  • The old tower was struck by lightning.  There are no lightning rods in the new tower.
  • Customer service needs to be better.  I have called multiple times and when I do, there is no record of my previous calls.
  • Can we get a meeting with customer service in the room?
  • I have to physically change the setting on my phone constantly from the home wifi to the cell signal.
  • Is there any interference from Wegmans?  It’s a tall building that could be blocking the signal.
  • My important voicemail messages are delayed when I have a signal loss.
  • Should I get a booster?
    • Response:  No.
  • Thank you for being here.  It feels good to be heard.
  • This is what good government does so thank you for being here and thank you Hanover County officials for putting this meeting together.

Information provided by Verizon:

  • Height of the tower is 15 feet lower than the original because of FAA rules. That was not a Verizon or County decision. The height difference should not affect the service though.
  • The new tower has more antennas so there should be better coverage.
  • We found a metal wire mesh (to stop bird entry) in the tower that was impacting the signal; installed in February. The mesh is being removed now.
  • Network extenders are an issue because your phone is trying to hop from signal to signal. Verizon has scaled back the network extender signals to help mitigate that issue. A solution would be to turn off the extenders if you can.
  • G-NetTrack Lite is an app that can tell you what towers you are connected to and other information.
  • We are planning on getting a special Hanover contact to assist with calls and concerns.

County map showing known cell reception problem areas: 

Next steps:

  • Verizon to remove metal mesh from inside tower. Perform supplemental testing. Could take a few weeks.
  • Verizon to work on a central location for citizen communication. Training is already taking place and the *611 service should already be going to one location in Verizon.
  • Verizon to pursue locating on other towers (maybe purchase other properties for a new tower).
  • Verizon to look into customer contracts. Can reductions in bills happen or can contracts be broken with out penalties?
  • Another Community meeting could take place depending on the Verizon testing and other internal actions.
  • Verizon to create a dedicated customer service number.

 

Contact information: