Can you hear me now?

New cell tower to bring coverage to Priest Gulch area

Keywords: Poll question,

Cellular coverage is on its way to the remote northeast corner of Montezuma County. On Monday, the Montezuma County Commission approved high impact and special use permits, submitted by Commnet Wireless, to build a new cell tower site on Highway 145 up the Dolores River Valley.

Commissioners Gerald Koppenhafer and Larrie Rule voted in favor, with Steve Chappell absent.

The tower is to be located between Dolores and Rico, just south of Priest Gulch Campground and RV Park. The area has, until now, been a dark spot for signal reception. With few residential homes in the vicinity, Priest Gulch and nearby Circle K Ranch will be the main beneficiaries.

"Coverage will be line-of-sight, within the immediate area," County Planning Director Susan Carver said. "(The tower) will offer a sense of security to people camping, and peace of mind to the traveling public. Right now you have no cell service up that corridor. Anyone who gets a flat tire is in for a walk."

Lowell Nelson, a Denver-based real estate specialist representing Commnet, said Ernie and Frieda Allsup, trustees of the campground property, approached Commnet more than a year ago about building a tower to service seasonal campers.

Nelson said there have also been concerns about inability to contact medical responders and law enforcement quickly in the event of traffic accidents or other emergencies along that stretch of Highway 145, which can be icy in winter.

Commnet will delegate construction of the tower to a subcontractor, with a operational target date of late December, weather permitting.

The permits require the tower be no taller than 80 feet - just above the treeline - and painted green to minimize its visibility against the forest backdrop. The tower components - base frame, ballast blocks, monopole and antenna mounts - will be delivered to the site in pieces and assembled. The modular system, manufactured by machinery company CDMI, is called a "quick deploy cell site" and is designed to be unobtrusive and easy to install.

The only utility required is electricity, provided by Empire Electric Association.

Commnet will lease and operate the site, but the cell signal is accessible to all major providers including AT&T and Verizon.