Can you see me now? 

We all love ’em, we all use ’em. Maybe Missoula’s cell phones aren’t as ubiquitous as New York City’s, but Missoulians apparently use enough phones to warrant a new tower. Verizon Wireless is in talks with the city, trying to hammer out a plan to add a tower to increase local capacity.

The first thing Missoula Historic Preservation Officer Philip Maechling (it’s his job to make sure new construction doesn’t erode Missoula’s historic character) realized was that negotiations would be lengthy.

“We don’t have any kind of comprehensive plan for dealing with wireless communications,” says Maechling. “We don’t even have a set of polices that the City Council has adopted to deal with the potential influx of towers.”

The next thing he realized was that Verizon wanted an 80-foot-plus tower smack in the middle of town. Maechling is quick to point out the conflict at work in his job: He’s got to satisfy cell phone users who want continuous, reliable service, but don’t want their view of Jumbo obscured.

Verizon spokesperson Georgia Taylor says the company is sensitive to Missoula’s aesthetic values.

“Obviously we have to work with the local jurisdictions on solutions that meet the local requirements and that also fit with what our network needs,” says Taylor. “For example, we may put in an antenna and try and blend it into the local environment.”

One of the company’s suggestions is to plant the tower at the corner of 6th and Myrtle behind the Bitterroot Flower Shop. Maechling says that spot isn’t popular at his office because he already knows it won’t be popular with Missoulians. But Taylor says Verizon isn’t married to that particular location.

“Right now there are a couple proposals, and a couple requests in the works so we can come up with a mutually beneficial solutions for everyone,” Taylor says.

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