BRADENTON BEACH -- For those who have spotty wireless service in Bradenton Beach, the city's working on it.
Mayor William Shearon and city officials gathered Thursday afternoon for the groundbreaking for a new cell tower with a representative of Florida Tower Partners LLC of Bradenton.
Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, a driving force behind installing the tower to improve local reception, spoke at the short ceremony on the southside of the city Public Works building at 403 Highland Ave., Bradenton Beach.
"Here we are today, finally going to break ground on the cell tower, which hopefully will help the citizens of Bradenton Beach with their safety," Speciale said, adding they'll be able to use cell phones during emergencies.
Tower construction begins June 16.
Brett Buggeln, president of Florida Tower Partners, said initial construction, which includes putting the tower and elevated platform in place, would take up to eight weeks. Individual wireless carriers would then put equipment and antennas on the tower, he said.
"We've partnered with the city of Bradenton Beach to improve wireless service here and on the beaches in the city of Bradenton Beach and also to augment the emergency services in terms of what they use the wireless carriers for," Buggeln said.
Buggeln also presented Shearon with a $320,000 check as initial compensation for renting space for the tower.
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh held part of one shovel used during the groundbreaking ceremony along with Shearon.
"I'm just thrilled to death about it," she said, her voice breaking. "It's long overdue for the security of the people who live here."
Vosburgh spoke of a woman in the area who had a fire and wasn't able to reach 911 because of poor service.
"It's for the safety and welfare of the citizens of Bradenton Beach," she said.
Florida Tower Partners is also trying to do business with the city of Anna Maria. The company will perform a "balloon test" June 24 to show the height of a proposed cell tower. During the test, the company will fly a brightly colored balloon to the height of the proposed tower.
Back in his office, Shearon spoke about how the cell tower will improve service for residents of Bradenton Beach and visitors.
He pulled an iPhone from his back pocket and placed it on the windowsill. Whenever he talks on his cell phone, Shearon said he has to be 2 feet from the window. Sometimes, he said, calls just go straight to voicemail.
"Usually if I'm going to be in here, I try to keep it on the windowsill because I get the best reception there," Shearon said with a chuckle.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.