Verizon tower on property of Red Door Resort.

Blinking red on the evening horizon, telecommunication towers are a common sight around the country. Now a new such structure has joined the shores of Mille Lacs Lake. Built on the property owned by the Red Door Resort along Mille Lacs’ north shore, the tower will soon provide service through Verizon Wireless to the northern Mille Lacs community. Red Door Resort owner Steve Kulifaj sees it major benefit to the community and is hopeful the tower’s service might expand to other providers.

The work of getting the tower set up, Kulifaj explained, has been an ongoing process for some time, as Verizon had first conducted a site survey around two years ago. He noted that service providers would prioritize areas based on the number of complaints and requests for service in the area. Since the survey, he, along with other resort members and guests, have been reaching out to Verizon and other providers about the lack of reliable local service. Last fall, trees were cleared from the tower site, and construction continued this spring. As of Wednesday, Sept. 4, the tower has been connected to power, and by Thursday or Friday of this week, Kulifaj believes the tower will be fully operational and providing service.

In addition to cell phone service, Kulifaj has been involved in a number of initiatives to improve the northern Mille Lacs community, both technology-wise and beyond. He had been involved with getting SCI Broadband to come to the north side of the lake to provide affordable internet. Currently, he said he is also looking into improving the local ATV trail system. As a member of the Aitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission, he also knew that surveys had been done for a cell phone tower in the Malmo-Glen area, but any progress for that project was as of yet tentative.

“Ten years ago, having cell phone service wasn’t as big of a deal,” Kulifaj said. “Now we have kids who won’t even come back here if they can’t get service.” He added that the tower’s service would also be a benefit for homes in the northern Mille Lacs community as well as sportsmen and emergency communication.

While Verizon owns the tower and the Red Door Resort owns the property on which the tower was built, Kulifaj said that after Aitkin County approves a site for a telecommunications tower, the tower’s owner is required to allow other service providers to use the tower for their service as well. He was hopeful that this requirement will see other providers, like AT&T and T-Mobile, bringing their service to the area as well.

Kulifaj said he was glad to see the tower get put up. “This area has a large populace,” he observed, “and this tower is going to be providing an invaluable service.”

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