Town of Spencer relying on temporary cell towers following historic church fire

SPENCER, Mass. — When the First Congregational Church of Spencer burned to the ground last week, it brought down more than a piece of history. It also brought down the town’s ability to make calls and get online.

“I think if you talked to anybody that had a carrier in that steeple, they suffered a loss of service,” said Town Administrator Jeff Bridges.

Bridges said the June 2 fire destroyed cellular antennas owned by AT&T and Verizon inside the church’s steeple, causing widespread outages across town.

“People are giving up landlines so your cell phone is your connection to the world. When those connections are severed it’s distressing,” Bridges said.

Within hours, Bridges said Verizon and AT&T established temporary towers, known as “cells on wheels,” at a nearby vacant elementary school. The town and the carriers are working now on a more permanent solution.

“Restoring connectivity by these companies is critical to you as a consumer and you as a person in your connection to the rest of the world,” Bridges said.

A Verizon spokesperson said service was restored within 24 hours using the temporary mobile cell site on Lake St.

“[Thursday] We’ve deployed an improved solution in the area that will provide the reliable network experience our customers in Spencer expect and deserve,” the spokesperson said.

Some residents, including Verizon customer Catherine Graves, said they were still having trouble making and receiving calls.

“My [service] is still terrible,” Graves said. “It just stinks when you leave your house and for a good two or three miles you can’t make a phone call.”

Bridges said the town’s building inspector is working with AT&T on a temporary tower on the church site and is awaiting the plans for review. Verizon and AT&T will be installing their antennas on that tower, he said.

“We look forward to getting the information on the new tower from AT&T for review to get service restored to a close to normal as possible,” Bridges said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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