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Lodi, Galt seek better cellular phone service

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Posted: Thursday, January 4, 2001 10:00 pm

Using a cellular phone can be an adventure in Lodi, and even more so in Galt.

Customers want the best possible service and phone reception, yet providers often face opposition from the same people over efforts to install cellular towers to improve the reception their customers want.

The most recent case took place Dec. 20 when the Lodi City Council postponed a decision on a request by AT&T Wireless Services to install an 80-foot-high tower at the southwest corner of Lodi Lake.

Critics say a tower in the Lodi Lake area would ruin the park’s ambiance.

However, park users wouldn’t see the tower because there is plenty of trees and landscaping between the lake and where the tower would be built, Lodi Public Works Director Richard Prima said.

Because northwest Lodi is primarily residential, it is difficult to find a suitable location for a tower to serve the area, which has poor reception, Prima said.

That’s what makes the project, which Prima said would be more visible from Turner Road than the lake, so attractive.

AT&T’s application will be reviewed at a future City Council meeting, possibly in the first week of February, Prima said.

The northwest Lodi-Woodbridge area is one of a few areas with weak reception, at least by some companies, said Janet Hamilton, Lodi’s administrative assistant to the city manager.

Other areas with weak cell phone reception include the areas of Lower Sacramento and Eight Mile roads, Interstate 5 at Eight Mile Road and in the foothills, Hamilton said.

Sometimes, people can’t use their cell phone in basements in Lodi, Hamilton said.

Cellular phone reception, however, varies with each company, Hamilton said. It depends where the nearest tower is and how strong the company’s signal is.

“There’s going to be times, no matter who your carrier is, when you’re going to feel like throwing it right out the window,” said Steve Stoffel, owner of Gold Coast Wireless in Galt.

Two companies share a cellular tower at Lodi’s corporation yard on Ham Lane and one each at the city water tank on North Stockton Street, on Pine Street and on Cluff Avenue near Turner Road, Prima said. One more signal set up is planned for the water tank, and one or two are planned for the softball complex on North Stockton Street.

In Galt, where reception has been considered spotty at best, Sprint PCS wanted to install a personal communication service antenna a year ago at one of the softball fields at the Galt Sports Complex on Caroline Avenue.

But several residents objected to having what they considered an unattractive looking pole in the area, which resulted in the Galt City Council denying Sprint’s application until the council could decide what locations in Galt would not be objectionable to residents.

Two popular locations have turned out to be Industrial Drive, where light industry and some city offices are located, and the Galt High School football stadium off Camellia Way.

Sprint’s tower, to be built on Industrial Way next to the building that houses Galt’s planning, public works and building departments, should be erected in the near future, said Planning Director Curt Campion.

At Galt High, AT&T plans to remove one of the stadium lights, now 75 feet high, and replace it with a metal one 93 feet high at the northeast corner of the stadium. The lights will remain at the 75-foot level.

Pacific Bell Wireless plans a similar project in the northeastern part of the stadium.

A third company, RCS Wireless, hopes to install a 100-foot-high tower near the concession stand in the stadium’s southwest corner. The Galt Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the RCS application at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 380 Civic Drive.

Pacific Bell previously installed a cellular tower at Galt’s wastewater treatment plant northwest of Highway 99 and Twin Cities Road.

For geographical reasons, Galt customers face some unusual problems. Being at the northern boundary of the 209 area code, cellular phone users are sometimes charged with a long-distance call because it is picked up by a signal in the 916 area code, Stoffel said.

“Sometimes the 209 signal’s stronger, sometimes the 916,” Stoffel said.

But it depends on the carrier, he said. AT&T, for example, is pretty much locked into the 209 area code, Stoffel said.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act allows cities and counties to regulate cellular towers and antennas, but they cannot prohibit wireless telecommunications service, according to a report last year by Galt Senior Planner Sandra Wulf.

Government agencies must also act on company requests within a reasonable period of time, and they cannot discriminate among competing telecommunications providers, Wulf said.

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