Two-way radio communications will soon have a new home in Wapello County.

During this week’s meeting of the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, the members approved a conditional use permit for Wapello County. The permit will allow county leaders to build a tower and other equipment structures for a communications tower on a site behind the former Washington School located on Fourth Street in Ottumwa.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the permit.

After the meeting, Wapello County Supervisor Steve Siegel said the board had recognized a need for a different site “due to the demise of St. Joseph Hospital.”

“Our committee was prudent and investigated every site to determine the best location and coverage,” he said.

Wapello County had requested a conditional use permit to build a communications tower not to exceed 250 feet and incidental outdoor storage structures and/or equipment cabinets.

Jeremy Weller is the Wapello County Jail administrator, and he chaired five months of meetings trying to address what to do about a new location for the communications tower.

The tower has been located on top of the former St. Joseph Hospital for a long time. The six-floor hospital provided a tall structure that was on a high spot in the landscape of the city’s north side.

But, Ottumwa Regional Health Center officials plan to raze the aged structure.

Weller offered the board members maps that showed the outline of Wapello County and indicated how strong transmissions could be. He referred to a printout that showed a large square (Wapello County) that had some darkened areas in its southeast corner.

The darkened area indicated Eldon might have some transmission issues, Weller noted.

The communications committee checked various places. Another possible site was the Bulldog Tower on the Elm Street side of Memorial Park. But, the city’s fire and police antennas were already there.

“When there are lots of antennas on the towers, there can be interference,” Weller said.

The committee also considered the Ottumwa Area Translator System’s tower. Weller said it’s “tough to transmit” from there and costly, too.

Up the hill behind Ottumwa Fire Department is a tower that’s been there for more than 40 years. But, the communications committee decided it would be better to seek a long-term plan elsewhere.

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