Towering above: Antennas and cables replaced on dispatch center radio tower

By Bob Steenson,

Hanging from a cable in a metal mesh cage 190 feet in the air may not be everybody’s idea of a good time, but it’s all in a day’s work for the crew working on the antenna tower at the Charles City Police Department.

The crew started Tuesday morning replacing all the existing antennas, installing one new antenna and running new coaxial cable in the 195-foot-tall tower.

Police Chief Hugh Anderson said the new antenna will give the dispatch center additional capabilities by being able to communicate on a new state radio system, but the rest of the work is more or less routine maintenance.

“I hate to call something like this routine,” Anderson said, referring to the huge crane positioned in the street by the Police Department and the team of high-rise workers with their safety harnesses, lanyards, helmets, clamps and carabiners dangling in the basket.

The tower was installed 26 years ago, he said. Other than replacing a couple of the antennas that broke off in an ice storm about 12 years ago, this is the first large-scale maintenance work on the tower that helps keep emergency services in contact throughout Floyd County.

A few years ago the electronic equipment inside the dispatch center was replaced, and now the outside work is being done.

Anderson said it had been hoped the job could be finished in a day, but the crew ran into some snags removing some of the old coaxial cable and will likely finish Wednesday.

Replacing the cable is really the big part of the job, he said. Some of the cable that runs up the inside of the tower is 1½ inches thick.

Electronic Engineering of Des Moines, with offices in Mason City, is doing the work, and contracted for crane services through CR Holland Crane Service of Forest City.

Anderson said one of the workers doing the high-rise work was part of the original crew that installed the tower.

The Floyd County Communications Board and Floyd County 911 Service Board last November agreed to a bid of $27,000 from Electronic Engineering for replacement antenna and cable work, including $3,500 for one day of crane service. The boards authorized paying up to $35,000 in case there were extra expenses or if the crane was needed for more than one day.

In May the boards approved adding the state system antenna to the work, for up to $15,000 additional for the antenna and installation.