Cell phone tower built in the middle of a sidewalk upsets Omaha neighborhood

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 4:40 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Cell phone towers are all over the place. You typically can’t see them, but there’s one in the Askarben neighborhood you can’t miss.

There’s a massive tower smack dab in the middle of this sidewalk near 55th and Poppleton. Now neighbors are wondering who thought this was a good spot.

Jane Manczuk grew up in this home. When her Mom passed away in 2005, she moved back. So when she saw crews digging up her beloved yard, she was upset, to say the least.

“About three weeks ago they put the tower in the middle of the sidewalk. First, it was supposed to go in the parking, then it was supposed to go in my front yard and that’s the option they came up with,” said Jane Manczuk.

In a statement to 6 News, a spokesperson for Verizon said in part “during site planning it was discovered that utility lines existed in that area.” It was originally supposed to be closer to the curb.

Verizon says they worked with the city to avoid other utilities in the area. City Engineer Todd Pfitzer says he was aware Verizon was building a tower in the area.

“They apparently did not notify the neighbors, at least not to the level that they likely should have,” Pfitzer said.

Now, city engineers are planning the best way to make sure the sidewalk around the tower fits ADA standards.

“We didn’t know first of all that we were going to be involved in putting a new sidewalk around a pole. That was news to us when they put the pole in the middle of the sidewalk despite communication and multiple efforts to try and find a better location. That’s where it ended up.”

Pfitzer says the city can’t do much about the tower because state law changed a few years back giving cell phone companies the right to occupy the city right of way. This is where City Councilmember Danny Begley and State Sen. John Cavanaugh come in.

“I immediately started taking the action that I’m empowered to which is looking for a flaw in the state statute that would allow this to happen and see if there are any changes we can make so this doesn’t happen in the future,” said Cavanaugh.

“That’s why I got our state senator involved, our city lobbyist, our city law dept. There are more questions than answers,” said Begley.

Manczuk says she just wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to another homeowner.

“I’d just like it to get back to normal around here.”

Leaders want to see this issue resolved, but they say from their understanding the tower likely won’t move.

Verizon sent 6 News a full statement on the cell phone tower:

“The planned location for the Verizon small cell node at 55th & Poppleton in Omaha was initially near the green space south of the sidewalk between the curb and sidewalk. However, during site planning, it was discovered that multiple utility lines existed in the area. Accordingly, Verizon coordinated with the City of Omaha to avoid the other utility lines by extending the sidewalk south in order to place the pole on the upper north half of the sidewalk. The City’s planned sidewalk extension also allowed the Verizon pole to be set further from the border of the right-of-way and avoid being closer to the adjacent property.”

Verizon spokesperson

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