BLOOMINGDALE - This community of roughly 1,500 people finally has reliable cell phone service, at least for customers of Verizon Wireless.
A long-awaited Verizon Wireless cell tower built last year on Reservoir Lane has been activated, town of St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency told the Enterprise Tuesday morning.
"Charlie Whitson, my board member, lives up on Prospect (Street) and he was up on top of the hill with five bars," Morency said. "We had heard it was going (to be activated) soon, but they said I couldn't announce anything, and I wouldn't dare anyways without it actually happening. But they turned it on, and I'm just so excited."
Bloomingdale’s newly activated cell phone tower is seen Tuesday.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Verizon Wireless spokesman John O'Malley said in an initial email Tuesday that the tower was in final testing, meaning it would be operational for a period of time while some tests are run, after which it would be activated. O'Malley said in a subsequent email Tuesday night that he received notice the tower had been officially activated, along with new Verizon Wireless cell sites in North Bangor and Lyon Mountain.
"All three went on the air this afternoon," O'Malley said.
Word that the Bloomingdale cell tower had been activated spread quickly throughout the small town.
"I've had three calls already this morning, everybody telling me the town now has cell service," said local real estate broker Sandy Hayes.
Cell phone reception for much of the town has been poor or nonexistent; the same goes for many surrounding areas in Gabriels and the town of Franklin. On state Route 3 heading toward Saranac Lake, reception comes back somewhere near the Saranac Lake Central School District bus garage.
Morency said she gave up her cell phone several years ago because coverage in the town was so poor.
"But now I'm going to buy another phone, and I'll be able to get coverage," she said.
"I didn't have any coverage at my house, and most of Bloomingdale didn't have any coverage," said Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tim Woodruff. "The only coverage I knew about in town was right by the post office, for some reason. I think this will be a good thing. It will be an excellent resource for the fire department. On emergency scenes, we'll be able to use cell phones in addition to the radios."
"I already had cell service at my house (on River Road)," Hayes said. "Everybody stops in my front yard to shoot up the river and hit the (Mount) Pisgah tower. But once you get down a little ways, they lose it. And once you get closer to Bloomingdale, you lose it. This will be a great improvement.
"It will be interesting to see what it does out toward Gabriels and Paul Smiths, and the dead spots out there," Hayes added. "I think this one (tower) here may have helped fill in some of those gaps."
Initial planning for the cell tower started in 2007. In November 2009, Verizon Wireless received approval from the state Adirondack Park Agency to build the 83.5-foot-tower on town-owned property on Reservoir Lane.
But it was nearly two more years before construction of the tower actually began. That work wrapped up last summer, and National Grid connected power to the site last fall.
In October of last year, the town got its first $1,200-a-month lease payment from Verizon Wireless. At that point the tower still hadn't been activated.
Morency said she had just called state Sen. Betty Little Tuesday morning to ask for her help in finding out why the tower hadn't been turned on yet.
"It's just been forever to get it done," she said. "There's been a lot of frustration. It was a safety issue for so many people. Now I think people will be happy, and I'll stop getting 100 calls a week from my dedicated cell phone callers wondering when it was going to be turned on."
Customers of other cell service providers who live in Bloomingdale still may not have coverage. The Enterprise received an email Tuesday from Erica Neufeld, who lives in Lake Placid and works in Bloomingdale twice a week, and is an AT&T customer.
"I don't have any service in Bloomingdale," Neufeld wrote. "I have reliable service in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid."
Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile have worked to build up their networks in the Adirondack Park over the last few years. Among the more than 60 cell projects permitted by the APA between 2009 and 2011, 25 were for Verizon Wireless, 21 were for AT&T, and 19 were T-Mobile projects.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.