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Morristown cellphone service to get boost from Verizon installation

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MORRISTOWN — Spotty cellphone service and routine “bumps” into stronger cell towers in nearby Brockville, Ontario, could be alleviated by a new network of telephone-pole-mounted relay devices being installed by Verizon Communications Inc., according to village officials.

Morristown’s approximately 500 year-round residents and its 200 seasonal residents are no strangers to poor cell reception. The problem has been blamed in equal parts on a weak signal from Verizon’s transmitter affixed to the village water tower and the community’s proximity to Canada. The streets of Brockville, Ontario, can be seen clearly from Morristown, which is perched just across the Canadian border along a narrow stretch of the St. Lawrence River.

The problem had become so bad in recent months that the Morristown Volunteer Fire Department began asking residents to use a separate telephone number to dial directly into Emergency Services in Canton, because 911 calls made from the area would often be picked up by emergency dispatch officials in Canada.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time when they dial 911 they hit Canada, and the person answering the phone doesn’t even know where we are,” said Morristown Superintendent of Public Works Kevin J. Crosby.

Mr. Crosby said that bounced emergency calls are only part of the problem, and in some sections of the village it has become virtually impossible to find a cell signal at all.

To solve the issue, Mr. Crosby said, he contacted technicians at Verizon, who suggested installing a series of telephone poles affixed with repeaters that will hold the signal’s strength and then retransmit it along the route. He said a total of eight poles and repeaters will be placed at staggered intervals along High Street, which runs directly through the center of the village.

Mr. Crosby said Verizon officials have promised him that the new network, which also will incorporate fiber-optic cables connected to the main cell tower, will boost reception for the entire community.

“They guarantee us that this should take care of all of the problems we’ve been having with bumps into Canada, and actually give the entire village 4G service,” Mr. Crosby said.

He said each relay unit resembles a small air conditioner and is about 18 inches wide and two feet high, and will be mounted at the top of standard 30- to 40-foot telephone poles. Public works crews already have marked where the poles will be and the location of underground water and sewer lines so there is no interruption of service once installation begins.

Mayor Sheryl A. Shatraw said the improved cell service will be welcome in the village, but she urged residents to be patient until the network is completed.

“This could take like a month or a month and a half to complete, so people have to realize that it’s not going to happen overnight,” Ms. Shatraw said.

Mr. Crosby said he hopes the new network also will solve the problem with 911 emergency calls being bounced to stronger cell towers north of the border. However, until that happens, people with emergencies in Morristown should continue to call central dispatch directly.

The number for emergency calls originating from Morristown is 386-4591.

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