Cell tower to come to Hillsdale. Wiki­media Commons | Courtesy


A cell­phone tower is set to break ground this month, weather per­mitting.

AT&T is building a new tower where Fayette Street meets the Baw Beese Trail to extend cov­erage to a half-mile radius dead zone, which includes Hillsdale College’s campus. The telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions company is looking to break ground some time this month and hopes it will be up and oper­a­tional in nine months, according to Alan Beeker, the City of Hillsdale’s zoning admin­is­trator.

“We are cur­rently working to make addi­tional upgrades to better support our cus­tomers in the Hillsdale area, including Hillsdale College,” AT&T Michigan spokes­woman Teresa Mask said in an email. “We’re con­stantly eval­u­ating the needs of our network to meet demand and provide a great expe­rience.”

AT&T is leasing the property from the city, according to Beeker. Pay­ments for that will begin soon.

Bill Zeiser, a city coun­cilman and a graduate student at Hillsdale College, said he hopes the extended cov­erage will provide ade­quate means for com­mu­ni­cation in the city. He said he has heard from res­i­dents who were unable to contact emer­gency ser­vices because there was no signal. Zeiser said he needed to pur­chase a microcell — a small box that func­tions as a miniature cell­phone tower — to receive phone calls for work in his own home.

“It’s frus­trating to me that in my own home and in my own neigh­borhood, I don’t get any reception,” Zeiser said.  “It’s ridiculous in this day and age that AT&T, one of the most major service providers, has such sig­nif­icant dead zones. These days, we rely more and more on these devices. I think this will be a big improvement.”

Hillsdale College stu­dents expressed excitement for the new tower, noting that AT&T’s service on campus is not up to par as other providers.

Senior Maria Thiesen said she cannot call her mom from inside the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house, though other stu­dents with dif­ferent providers can.

“It’s ter­rible,” she told The Col­legian. “If I have calls, very rarely can I stay in one spot without losing the call.”

Beeker explained that in order for con­struction to begin, the frost must dis­appear and the mud must dry up.

“The weather is not being coop­er­ative right now,” Beeker said, but added, “There are a hundred of things that can slow down or tem­porarily stall con­struction. I don’t foresee that. Most of this is pretty this is like any other tower they put up.”

City council approved the con­struction of the tower in May, despite some con­cerns from the city’s planning com­mittee and com­munity members about its location.

“Infra­structure is not pretty, but cell­phone towers are so ubiq­uitous now, you won’t notice,” Zeiser said. “The fact is that we need these towers, and they need to go some­where.”

Beeker said the chosen location is one of two that meets AT&T’s require­ments, city zoning ordi­nances, and the Federal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Commission’s rules against building towers in a flood­plain.

The second pos­sible location was to combine AT&T’s tower with that of the WCSR radio station. The only place to build the tower on WCSR’s property, however, was where its current tower stands. Tearing that down would put WCSR off the air for six to nine months, Beeker said.

“It was imme­di­ately ruled out,” he said. “Logistics would not allow for the con­struction of the new tower while the old tower existed.”

The location where Fayette meets the trail was the only option, Beeker said.

Building the tower there does con­flict with the city’s master plan, which looks to make the property along the Baw Beese Trail and St. Joseph River space for parks and recre­ational activity. His­tor­i­cally, though, the city has reserved that space for indus­trial and com­mercial pur­poses because the railroad runs par­allel to the trail and river, Beeker said.

In addition to provide more cell phone cov­erage to AT&T cus­tomers, the tower will have rental space for more equipment in the future.

“Whenever you expand a business to grow their out­reach, you’re improving a business,” Beeker said. “If you improve a business, that’s a bonus to the city.”