Shandaken continues calling for cell phone coverage

By Jay Braman Jr.
Have you ever hit a deer at night and had to walk two miles before finding a phone to call for help?
Shandaken Town Councilman Jack Jordan has. Jordan, a Pine Hill resident and the town’s point man tasked with trying to increase cellular phone service in town, plans on making a note of the incident, and he wants others to do the same.
Jordan interfaced with Verizon representatives Friday to talk about why the communications giant has yet to install any significant system in Shandaken, which has almost 20 miles of the Route 28 corridor within it. The majority of the corridor remains a dead zone for cell phone users.
No promises were made, he said Monday, but there was some good news.
“We’ve moved up on the priority list,” he said.
Shandaken has certainly rolled out the red carpet for Verizon. Three years ago a 180-foot tower was erected on town-owned land and all cellular service providers were invited to locate on the structure. To this day it remains vacant.
Town officials like Jordan and Supervisor Rob Stanley say they continue to work with county officials to try and convince companies like Verizon to set up shop. But the communications giant, this year anyway, has other plans in terms of new infrastructure.
Rather than build in remote, unpopulated areas like the Catskills, Verizon is building new towers in places like Saratoga where they already provide plenty of service coverage. The reason for new towers, despite complaints from nearby residents, is that Saratoga overloads the existing network during the summer months.
In the meantime, there is limited service in the Catskills, with the exception of a few pockets in the Highmount area, where Verizon does have equipment.
That could change though, Jordan said, if Verizon is convinced that there are too many emergencies to ignore. The company’s representative told Jordan that such data would help the cause.
“I’ll talk to (Shandaken Police Officer in Charge) Jim McGrath,” Jordan said. “We will start documenting.”
Those with stories about how a cell phone could have saved a life, or a home, or prevented a burglary should notify Jordan at 688-7165.