In the lovely but technologically disconnected development of East Verde Estates, landline telephones and spotty Internet service have served as the sole methods of communicating with the outside world.
That means the two-way radios used by police and ambulances haven’t worked, nor have cell phones, the absence of which could cause trouble should disaster strike.
“If they have a call out here, they don’t have radio communication back to Payson because East Verde is in a hole,” said resident Jeff Johnson.
However, work is under way to turn Johnson’s existing ham radio tower into a communications tower that will provide radio waves for emergency service personnel to talk to one another when responding to calls, and could eventually allow the subdivision to enjoy cell phone reception.
“Almost every emergency service person carries a two-way radio and a cell phone,” said Michael Day, a telecommunications specialist and assigned northern Gila County emergency broadcast coordinator. However, in the dead zone of East Verde Estates, neither piece of equipment works.
Gila County supervisors recently approved using the ham radio tower for commercial use, but how long it takes to purchase antennas and other equipment depends on funding.
Day, who doesn’t live in East Verde Estates, is financing the roughly $50,000 project himself. “So, yes, I’ll accept donations,” he said. “I could have it all up in 30 days if the funding was here right now.”
So, why would a man who doesn’t live in a place pay five figures to connect it to the outside world? “Because I can. Because the community needs it. Because the economy is bad,” he said. “Because it’s critical.”
Day added that the radio capabilities could improve property values. According to Johnson, two separate homebuyers have abandoned potential deals in the neighborhood after realizing the absent cell phone reception.
Johnson said that gaining reception will likely be a more complicated process than gaining radio service because of the necessary negotiations with cell phone companies.
Day is currently negotiating with Verizon.