AT&T wants to expand 4G service atop jail

Company s hoping to expand its 4G broadband-coverage in the area and since the jail is the county's tallest building, it was a natural fit

By Ryan Sabalow
Record Searchlight

SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. — The nine-floor Shasta County jail may soon become the base of a cellphone broadcasting array, but don't expect to see the county's tallest building get much taller.

The Shasta County Supervisors are expected at today's 9 a.m. meeting to vote to go ahead with putting the space on top of the 10-story jail up for bid as a site for cellphone companies to place cellphone panels.

Shasta County Chief Administrative Officer Larry Lees said AT&T representatives recently contacted the county and asked whether they could lease the space on top of the 110-foot-tall jail. The state's government codes mandate that even if only one party has expressed interest in doing business with the county, it must go up for bid.

"I suppose we could end up putting two providers on there," Lees said. "There's certainly room." Dave Sokol, the county's correctional plant manager, said the panels likely wouldn't be noticed from below. They would be connected to flashing-covered cables running from a small building that would be built at the Placer Street side of the jail's southern wall.

"Aesthetically, the flashing they put up would be painted and textured same as the (jail) building," Sokol said.

Lees said AT&T is hoping to expand its 4G broadband-coverage in the area and since the jail is the county's tallest building, it was a natural fit.

The company now leases space on the much shorter Shasta County Superior Courthouse next door to the jail.

The lease agreement would require AT&T pay $2,000 a month to the county with 3 percent annual rent increases, according to lease documents.

Currently, the courthouse lease with AT&T is about $1,500 a month, Lees said.

The extra money would go back into the sheriff's office budget, Lees said.

Court administrator Melissa Fowler-Bradley said she supports getting the panels off the courthouse roof, primarily because the court gets nothing from the lease agreement with AT&T.

"The court is not a party to that lease and we do not gain anything from it," Fowler-Bradley said. "I would be in favor of the panels moving to the jail so that when AT&T wants to access them, we would not have to have deputy marshals accompany them to the roof as we do right now." She said the panels on the courthouse roof also caused problems when the building was rated for earthquake safety.

"The seismic problems would go away if the panels were moved to the jail," she said. "That would be a good thing, for the county and for the court."

The jail panel plan isn't a sure thing.

Last year, Verizon asked to install similar cellphone panels on the jail. But in May 2010, when the county was going to accept bids at a supervisors meeting, not a single telecommunication company, including Verizon, showed up, county officials said.

Should the supervisors open the bid process at today's meeting, the final bids would be heard at the next board of supervisors meeting.

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