The Ottumwa Courier

February 8, 2013

Weather slows work on communications tower

CINDY TOOPES
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — The work on the communications tower continues on Ottumwa Street hill, but the weather has slowed some of the effort.

Josh Stevens, the Wapello County emergency management coordinator, said Thursday that a work crew had arrived Wednesday and started offloading some of the material needed for the concrete work to begin.

In prior weeks, cold weather didn’t allow the crew to do any digging or boring. Stevens said last week’s weather was too cold, and the workers couldn’t do the work as planned.

“And now we have rain,” Stevens added.

The tower project started after Ottumwa Regional Health Center officials had decided they wanted to close and eventually raze St. Joseph Hospital.

But Wapello County leaders and emergency management officials were concerned about their two-way radio and emergency equipment atop the former hospital. The six-story building was home to various pieces of emergency equipment, and the site had worked well for the agencies who used it for years.

“The planning team investigated several sites that would give good coverage of communications,” Stevens added.

After a lengthy search, local officials decided to use the Ottumwa Street hill area, which is near the Ottumwa Fire Department’s central location.

Some of the tower work depends on the weather and other aspects on things in production, Stevens said. The county officials gave them the specifications, and the crew started working in about two weeks.

“The good thing for us is we were lucky to find a communication ground and not just any ground,” Stevens said. “For example, we can’t build too close to the airport. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communication Commission require zoning and permits.”

It’s a collaborative area that includes city and county government agencies. Stevens noted the communications tower has been a big team effort.

The crew is also doing some work that’s not construction. First the concrete goes in, next comes the steel and then the crew can begin construction.

“The contractors are lining up, and there is a shelter being made off site,” Stevens said. “There are already a couple of large towers on the property.”

Over the next two weeks, the crew will continue both concrete work and dirt work, Stevens added.