Westview Christian Church in Santa Rosa, California, recently celebrated the addition of a 68-foot steeple to their building, thanks to Verizon Wireless providing funding for its construction. Within the steeple is a Verizon cellphone tower that went live earlier this year.
The company also paid Westview an undisclosed amount for leasing the space.
Rob Bowman, pastor of the church, told The Press Democrat, "Churches are having hard times right now, so it has been somewhat helpful to us. It's helping to generate some revenues that are needed, but we're not rolling in it."
In an effort to improve coverage in areas while avoiding eyesores, Verizon has made the expensive decision to hide their towers whenever possible. Company spokeswoman Heidi Flato says, "I think it's a solution that works if we find the right partner."
Verizon's service in the Santa Rosa area has consistently ranked low, and the need for increased coverage became more urgent after wildfires hit the area last year.
Santa Rosa resident Theresa Schulz recalled her panic during the disaster, saying, "Communication was down everywhere for all of us. I could not reach my former spouse or my 13-year-old daughter during the firestorm for nine hours. They were unaccounted for. Possibly, if there were cellphone towers up in their neighborhood that did not burn, I could have reached them and been reassured that they were okay."
As part of Verizon's commitment to expand in the area, the company is now pursuing another steeple deal with a church on the other side of Santa Rosa. The plan would involve erecting a 62-foot steeple for Community Baptist Church to house a cell tower, but the initiative is facing some opposition from the community.
Community Baptist Church neighbor Cailyn McCauley told KPIX-TV of her reaction to the proposal, saying "My first thought was: Why is Big Brother here? And do I want Big Brother in my backyard? A 60-foot-plus tower looming over my house would be seen from all angles. My front yard, my side yard, my backyard, even the yard furthest from them. So, I just don't want a commercial enterprise looking over my house."
Although not required, the city has scheduled a series of public hearings on Verizon's proposals for expanding coverage in response to citizen concerns.