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Contractor expects to take AT&T tower down quickly in downtown Duluth

The dismantling of the AT&T communications tower will commence as expected next week, and the contractor leading the project doesn’t believe it will shut down the 300 block of West First Street for as long as the permit suggests.

“We plan to have the tower down in 10 days or less,” said Randel Scott, owner of Texoma Contracting Inc., out of Oklahoma. “This will be done in considerably less time than the 30 days in the permit.”

Scott admitted to being taken aback earlier this week by news that business owners were surprised and upset by the short notice they’d been given of the pending street closure.

“Ten days or less is how I quoted the job,” he said.

Scott said his company, which specializes in tower work, has worked on a number of similar projects for AT&T.

“AT&T is dismantling a lot of microwave towers,” he said, noting such towers have been made obsolete by fiber optics. “For us, this is routine.”

Lingering concerns over the project, which is permitted to take place Wednesday through June 13, appear to be dissipating. CenturyLink, at 322 W. First St., is next door to AT&T’s property at 314 W. First St. – the site of the tower. The manager of the CenturyLink offices, Troy Mack, originally expressed some angst about the work next door. Those concerns have abated, according to a CenturyLink spokesman.

“I think till he met with contractors he was nervous,” said Joe Conry, who works for CenturyLink out of La Crosse, Wis. “He absolutely has no concerns now.”

Meanwhile, Texoma’s Scott is negotiating with a possible subcontractor from Ironworkers Local 512 in an effort to subcontract disassembly, which will amount to an exercise in unbolting connections. Scott doesn’t anticipate torches will have to be used to cut the steel.

Norm Voorhees, spokesman for Local 512, said he was aware of negotiations and didn’t expect to picket the site, but would if he had to.

“Hopefully, they can come to a resolution with the contractor involved so we can get a contractor who lives and pays taxes here,” he said. “If they get nowhere, I probably will be picketing there with as many members as we have available.”

Viant Crane’s director of operations, Nick Minardi, notified local businesses earlier this week of the pending street closure. The Superior contractor is supplying the crane and its operation. Minardi said concern about the street being able to bear the weight of the crane have been addressed.

“We lower ground pressure bearings by getting the crane on top of a timber mat surface,” he said.

A senior engineering specialist with the city, Bill Bergstrom, said the street is rated for 9 tons per axle.

“These cranes are on inner city projects throughout the country,” Minardi said.

Permit holder Viant would be responsible for any damages to city streets.

Texoma’s Scott doesn’t anticipate any safety hazards or sideshows.

“We’ve been doing a lot of these,” he said.