A ribbon cutting celebrating the end of Vermilion’s cell phone dead zone took place last week following the erection of a new monotower at Liberty Avenue and Overlook Drive. The new tower will improve cell phone reception and reduce safety and economic development concerns, according to Mayor Jim Forthofer.
According to the mayor, limited cell phone reception was reported in a third of the City of Vermilion; a two and a half square mile area affecting 3,000 Vermilion residents.
"This isn’t just a spot outage along the lake," stated the mayor. "The dead zone is one third of our town. It wasn’t just an inconvenience, it had very serious safety and economic development implications."
“A woman told me that her husband had chest pains and she had to go to the neighbor who had a landline in order to call for help,” said the mayor. “As mayor, I was showing a piece of property to a prospective businessman representing a good-sized distributorship. He liked the location and what support I proposed from the city of Vermilion. He tried to make a call to his office and couldn’t connect.”
The mayor began contacting Verizon in mid-2019 to request that Vermilion’s dead zone be listed as a priority. Engineers produced plans to restore reception by erecting a mono-tower at Route 6 and a mini cell on top of City Hall. There was no cost to the City of Vermilion.
“It’s about time,” said Sally Roth, a resident affected by the dead zone. “I am so thankful that I can go out of my house, drive around and still be connected like normal people do.”
Roth, Mayor Forthofer, City of Vermilion IT Manager Richard Pozywak and Vermilion Construction Manager Brian Dean participated in the ribbon cutting.
“As mayor of Vermilion in a dark time of pandemic I feel like ‘Dr. No’,” said Mayor Forthofer. “I am constantly saying, 'You can’t hold that festival or that concert or pack the beach on a beautiful day.' It feels good to be able to get something done that improves the quality of life for a big section of Vermilion.”