We expect the maintenance and painting of the water tower east of Highway 181 to wrap by December 18th, and anticipate cell companies will reinstall their antennae at that time, effectively improving nearby residents’ cell service. The City stayed the termination of our contractor’s agreement after they showed renewed interest in completing the job and devoting more resources to it.
Why has it taken a year to get the water tower on Fairhope Avenue, east of Bishop Road, painted, disrupting residential and business cell service?
Inconsistent cell service since the fall of 2017 in parts of Fairhope east of 181 has been frustrating for some residents, businesses and visitors. The City shares in that frustration and is eager to share with you some background, our understanding of contributing factors, and how they can be resolved.
In the fall of 2017, the City of Fairhope awarded a contract to Utility Service Company to repaint one of our water tank towers on Fairhope Avenue, east of Bishop Road, in Fairhope. The bid was awarded based on the vendor’s stated qualifications to meet the contract specifications and cost. As part of the water tank’s regular, periodic maintenance -- important to prevent rusting and ensure quality -- the tank must be sandblasted inside and out before new paint is applied.
Since communications companies lease space on top of the towers for their antennas, in preparation for the maintenance work, they were given six months’ notice that they would be required to remove their antennas, setting in motion their need to provide a suitable, temporary replacement. Though the communications companies are required to notify their customers if they are to expect any diminished services, the companies told news sources they did not do so since they were providing comparable service. It is clear from residents’ and business owners’ complaints to the City, that they feel this has not been the case.
Meanwhile, Utility Service Company’s failure to anticipate the severity of the background check requirement necessary for labor to work on a critical infrastructure project meant it was falling behind on its requirement to complete the job in180 days – or until early June -- or face penalties. With 15-20% of the work completed, the City Council voted on August 27 to terminate the contract of the vendor, setting off a 30-day notice for the current contractor to vacate the premises.
The City Council anticipates it will take between 3-6 months to hire a new contractor and finish the job. It may be possible to have the new contractor complete the top of the tank first, allowing earlier reinstallation of the antennas, and the City will do everything within its power to expedite the process if it can do so in a safe, quality manner.
In the meanwhile, it is the communications companies’ responsibility to provide their customers with acceptable service and Fairhope residents should contact their provider directly to provide a solution if they feel it is not.
We encourage residents and visitors to contact us with any questions or comments.
A contact form can be found at the bottom of this page: https://www.fairhopeal.gov/departments/public-utilities/water-and-sewer