Cell tower but no reception, Dammeron Valley residents petition for help

Some 300 Dammeron Valley residents are petitioning two cell phone companies to provide reliable service in their community, Dammeron Valley, Utah, May 21, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

DAMMERON VALLEY – Imagine living in an established community and having a medical emergency – or having your house catch fire. You call 911 from your cell phone – but the call doesn’t go through.

An existing, but unused, cell tower in Dammeron Valley. Some 300 residents are petitioning two cell phone companies to provide reliable service in their community, Dammeron Valley, Utah, photo not dated | Photo courtesy of Amanda Ballif, St. George News

This is the situation Dammeron Valley residents find themselves in.

Cell phone service in the small community is so bad that it is dangerous, according to a group of residents who are trying to resolve the problem.

Even though a cell tower built about nine years ago sits unused within sight of most Dammeron Valley homes, residents can’t count on reaching emergency services when they need help.

One retired man who lives in the Meadows area of Dammeron Valley experienced the problem first-hand, area resident and petition organizer Amanda Ballif said.

“He fell at his house,” she said. “He fell, had his cell phone on him and went to call for help.”

But no cell service was available and the man could not get help.

“He had to wait until his wife got home. And then she found him and he got the medical help he needed,” Ballif said.

“We don’t know who else has had to suffer through something like that.”

The strength of cell phone reception in Dammeron Valley varies from one day to the next; some residents can only make and receive calls and texts in certain areas of their property. Ballif cannot text an image unless she is standing at her front door.

Many residents, including Ballif, maintain a land line along with their cell phones for safety, but they are getting fed up, she said.

It just seems ridiculous that we don’t have receivers on a tower that is in place, has all of the equipment – the ground equipment is all there … it’s ready to go,” Ballif said.

“You may call it a first-world problem but we live in the first world,” she said. “We’re not in the middle of nowhere.”

Ballif and others began collecting signatures on a petition in January and quickly found 300 residents to sign. Dammeron Valley has about 400 homes.

The petition mentions several points, including the proximity to state Route 18, “our dangerous and fatality-ridden highway,” which has areas near Dammeron Valley without any cell service.

We strongly urge Verizon (to) fully implement the existing cell tower immediately for the use of its customers and the safety of residents and visitors in our community and along our highway,” the petition reads.

The petition has been sent to Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., along with a letter from the head of Dammeron Valley Fire and Rescue.

Our fire department and firefighters rely on sufficient coverage to receive text messages and cellular calls in order to perform our duties,” Dammeron Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin Dye wrote in the letter.

“When the text messages aren’t received, we are not able to make emergency situations in a timely matter. Once on scene, if we cannot place a phone call to our medical director for patient needs and orders, then we cannot do what is best for the patients,” Dye wrote.

The issue has been discussed at length on the Dammeron Valley Voice Facebook page.

“This community suffers through living in the digital age without adequate communication possibilities on cell phones … many homes have no coverage at all,” one post said. “More homes require residents to text and call from only certain locations in their homes and/or yards.”

The existing cell tower was built sometime before 2009, county planner Scott Messel said.

Messel said his understanding is that the tower was constructed by a company which builds towers where they believe they will be needed.

“And then (they) try to work with Verizon or some of these other groups to try to encourage them to come onto their tower,” Messel said. “I believe that this was one of those towers.”

A sign on a Dammeron Valley mailbox asks residents to sign a petition asking Verizon or AT&T to provide reliable cell phone service in their community, Dammeron Valley, Utah, photo not dated | Photo courtesy of Amanda Ballif, St. Geor

The Dammeron Valley cell tower is the only unused tower in the unincorporated county. According to county code, any such “abandoned” tower should be torn down, but Messel said the county has no plans to enforce that code.

Some residents have been given cell phone boosters, but for the most part they don’t work, Ballif said, without homeowners themselves spending thousands of dollars on their own equipment.

When asked about the issue, a spokeswoman for Verizon said that the company takes the safety of its customers “very seriously” and is always working to identify locations for cell sites based on customer needs.

“Each cell site proposal is different and how we engineer our network to meet needs is dependent on many factors – proximity to other cell sites, topography, customer demand, local zoning requirements and more,” Meagan Dorsch said in an emailed response to questions.

Mountainous terrain poses its own set of challenges, Dorsch said. Cell phones are only wireless from the cell tower to the phone; calls still have to be carried via fiber optic cables or microwave from the cell site to an operating facility.

“Because of the terrain, this can be difficult to do,” she said.

When asked why Verizon can’t use the existing tower, Dorsch said she did not have enough information to provide an answer to that question.

Verizon customers can call 800-922-0204 to report any network issues, Dorsch said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • Utahguns March 16, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    The same potentially dangerous issue is in the Veyo-Brookside area (about 5 mi. North of Dammeron Valley).

    Several months ago over 18 residents met at the Brookside firehouse and had a conference call with Verizon.
    We explained to them the huge reduction of the cell network and the residents inability to use the Verizon service.
    At that time, over 22 Customer Service Tickets were generated by Brookside residents, with the same result: “marginal service area”.
    The Verizon customer service agent AND the CS supervisor continued to tell us that we were in a “marginal service” area and that it’s “not their problem.”
    Yes the service is marginal, but, six months ago it wasn’t. Six months ago the service was perfect.

    We’ve learned that there is a repeater tower that was built almost three years ago on an Indian reservation to the Southwest of this area, but, the Indian tribe won a case in superior court to have the tower taken down six months ago.
    That’s when the service started to degrade.
    Verizon continues to this day to tell customers to “get updated phones and signal boosters”, which some residents did to no avail.

    Verizon continues to stonewall these residents AND It’s impossible to get any help from local government.
    In addition, local fire departments, firemen and first responders are notified through the Everbridge System, which is tied to the Verizon network.
    Good luck if you ever have an emergency….

    Here’s a great example where a big corporation has power over Civilians and Local Governments.

    What say ye Washington County?
    Anybody in the County building listening?

    • comments March 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Sounds to me like you’re wanting gov’t to regulate pvt telecom industry. Sounds like socialism to me.

      • Utahguns March 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm

        Geez, if that’s your take on my comment, then you need to get some anti-paranoid pills.

      • LocalTourist March 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

        There are times government needs to get involved, and public safety is one of them.
        While we’re talking socialism, I take it from your comment that you’re willing to give up your Social security because it’s a socialist program, right?

  • old school March 16, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Really want results? Have each subscriber file a Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint! It’s EASY to do these days (online) and amazingly effective. Bet they come up with something pretty quick with a couple hundred of those on their plate! HAHAHAHHAHHAH!!!!!!

    • DRT March 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Utah BBB is a total joke. Majority of business don’t take part in it. And those that do, don’t pay any attention to what BBB thinks is right.

      • LocalTourist March 19, 2017 at 8:45 am

        BBB might be a joke, but the Public Service Commission is not. I used to work for a phone company and complaints are used as future leverage when it comes to expansion plans… “you want to expand service when you can’t provide service to your current area??”
        I’d suggest filing complaints with both.

  • [email protected] March 17, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Let’s agree, Verizon does not really care about these D.V. subscribers. Nor will AT&T.
    To their credit, VZW had maintained a better nationwide network of infrastructure than their competitors for years, although that has narrowed recently. My kids were almost always able to get a connection with VZW when in off-grid parts of the Southwest, often their travel companions had no signal.
    If a 7/24/365 connection is important, get a landline. At the same time, I would explore your cell service contract to possibly switch carriers. Plenty of equally capable alternatives, at very favorable pricing.

  • mmsandie March 17, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I wondered why the service is bad,, that’s why I try not to visit there if something does hapoen, one time I had to drive almost to snow canyon entrance to get reception and then drive back…

  • Brian March 17, 2017 at 9:51 am

    It comes down to economics. Cell towers are expensive to build and operate and 300 potential subscribers spread across several networks isn’t a big enough pool to justify the initial and ongoing expenses. AT&T has an app where you can report poor coverage. Get that and have everyone hammer it on a regular basis. The BBB may be an option, but they probably won’t accept poor coverage as a valid complaint.

  • wilbur March 17, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Get a land line.

    (Yes, I live in D.V. and the only real problem with my phone is telemarketers.)

    Bunch’a entitled whiners.

    • DB March 17, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      I agree. I don’t think it’s Verizon’s (or AT+T, etc) RESPONSIBILITY to provide you with 911 capability. However, from a business standpoint, it would be in their best interest to do so. I have perfect reception here in St George, therefore no landline. If the ‘big one’ hits, the landline will be overloaded and I’ll be on my own, anyway. Where I used to live where reception was sketchy, I had both cell and landline.

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