Two cranes reach a height of about 180 feet to work on a smokestack in York city.
Two cranes reach a height of about 180 feet to work on a smokestack in York city. (YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS--JASON PLOTKIN)


For better phone service around York, Steve Hagen said, you just need a couple of cranes, some safety belts, and few guys willing to set up shop in a basket suspended 160 feet over the city.

"It's not so bad," he said, angling his head back for a better view. Then, chuckling: "You just wouldn't want to fall."

The work along West Philadelphia Street -- at the former Met-Ed steam plant -- is part of a push by Sprint to upgrade its network, according to Tom Whitaker, vice president of operations for Virginia-based Shentel. Those upgrades include replacing old copper cable with fiber optics, he said.

"The signal is stronger, more powerful and will provide better coverage," said Whitaker.

Shentel is in the process of merging the Sprint and Nextel networks in much of the mid-Atlantic, Whitaker said, "smashing them together" at more than 500 locations to create one, stronger phone network. That work is about halfway complete, he said, and is taking place at both standard cell towers and other sites, like the smokestack in York, where antennas are placed. The upgrade will mean 3G service is replaced with 4G, he said.

"We're basically putting up brand new equipment," he said.

Dave Keech, a broker with Rock Real Estate, said the building and smokestack belong to York-based Space Leasing Inc. The former steam company building is about 28,000 square feet, he said, and houses several businesses. Crews are currently working to put in a CrossFit gym, expected soon, he said.

"They're moving in equipment now," he said.

Whitaker asked for patience, as crews work. There could be some minor network disruptions, he said.

"They're impossible to avoid," he said. "But when we're done, you'll have a much better performing network."

For Hagen and his crew, there are other rewards. He smiled at the group's workspace, suspended dizzyingly above.

"When you're up there like that... the view," he said, shaking his head. "It's pretty nice."

@timstonesifer; 771-2032

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