Gilbert’s brand new $46.6 million public safety building was built to withstand a terrorist attack. Problem is, the state-of-the-art building also is blocking out a major part of the 21st century — pagers and cellular phones.
Since police moved into the complex July 14, they’ve had to revert to traditional land-line telephones because they were not receiving the bulk of their pages and cell phone calls.
That means retraining people not to rely on cells or pagers, said Gilbert police Sgt. Jeff Esslinger.
"We've been inconvenienced because the world has become dependent on (them)," he said. Officers have noted weak cell phone reception in some areas, and a large dead spot in the center of the building, Esslinger said. "In some parts of the building, it's really hit and miss," Esslinger said.
The telecommunication dead zones are irritating, but town officials said emergency services will not be affected. Calls to 911 are through a land line. In a crisis, officials will communicate with police radios, which are not affected by the building. No one knows for sure why the building cuts off or blunts the signals.
"It probably won't be solved," Esslinger said. Joe Cook, a construction manager for HDA Architects, the firm that designed the complex, said building materials could be causing the disruption.
The complex was constructed with steel frame and blast-resistant glass to guard against any large explosion similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, he said. Although police and town officials had not told Cook about the problem, he said that steel and concrete can disrupt signals.
The 170,000-square-foot public safety complex, constructed on 26 acres near Gilbert and Warner roads, houses the town's police department, fire department administration, prosecutor’s office, Maricopa County justice court and municipal court.
The dead zones are mostly located in the police department, which occupies about 103,000 square feet, Esslinger said. Officials contacted in other departments said they did not have communications problems.