Madison County law enforcement copes without cell service


Madison County law enforcement copes without cell service (06/27/13)

VIRGINIA CITY, Mont. - In Virginia City, Madison's county seat, Verizon customers don't have cell phone coverage. When you try to dial 911, nothing happens- it doesn't ring, not even a busy signal.

"I cannot call out and I cannot call in because in the upper corner here it says ' no service'," says Madison County Sheriff Daivd Schenk.
I stopped into the courthouse to speak with the Schenk. We tried calling 911 again, with no luck.

"It's been really, really unusual to have something taken away from us that we rely on," explains Schenk.

He tells me the department pays $1000 a month on a Verizon plan. They use Verizon air cards in some of their cars and, without service, can't run vehicle registration or driver's licenses. Schenk says they still have dispatch but, without coverage, they have to use a radio. It's not preferable due to privacy but, for now, it's the only way.

"We are not able to respond until we can go in another area to view our voicemails," says Schenk.

They miss calls like follow-ups to investigations but it hasn't hampered emergency response yet.

"It needs to be rectified or we're going to have to find some other cell phone coverage that can provide good coverage," Schenk says.

After a little trial and error and a tip from a local, I was able to get two bars on the steps of the county courthouse. But for law enforcement, spotty service won't cut it. In

Sheriff Schenk tells me he's been in touch with Verizon and they plan to have a temporary fix by Saturday night.

The company will use what's called a COW or cell on wheels. They'll set it up near the fiber optic building in town.

He says there's been talk of a tower between Virginia City and Sheridan but nothing's happened yet.

Schenk also says they're willing to work with Verizon on a possible mountain top tower location but it will require a lot of discussion and paperwork.

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