- Associated Press - Saturday, May 3, 2014

KRAEMER, La. (AP) - The community of Kraemer recently cut the ribbon on a long-awaited delivery from AT&T Wireless - its first cellphone tower.

The bayou community of less than 1,000 people sits on a winding road that splits apart a densely forested cypress swamp in Lafourche Parish. Out of one clearing now stands a 150-foot cell tower.

The tower came five years after residents began urging politicians to address what they said had become an increasingly bothersome lack of service in the town.

The community, which has no postal address and features what locals believe is the state’s last one-room elementary school - now a 26-student kindergarten - had long been shrouded in a pocket where few cell signals escaped.

The nearest tower belongs to Verizon in the town of Chackbay.

“There was no coverage at all for them. There is a lot of road around with few if any houses,” said state Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco. “Communities down here, if something happens to their homes they had no way to communicate. It was a hindrance socially and for their businesses.”

State Rep. Dee Richard, a Thibodaux independent, began hosting town hall meetings five years ago where residents’ frustrations over their lack of connectivity came to light.

“We have been waiting for this for years and it finally game through. Dee and Gary came out to some meetings. We all got together as a big family,” said Kraemer resident Wallace Sanchez. “They fought for us and never stopped.”

Smith said establishing cell service for the remote community has been one of the top three issues of his first three years as senator.

Kraemer sits about 7 miles northeast of Thibodaux and is written about most frequently for authentic swamp tours.

Swamp tour guide Roland Torres, who lives just a half-mile up the road from the site of the new tower, said the tower will make a big difference.

“It is difficult for us to keep up with business when I am out riding around with one bar of service. It’s a gamble,” said 70-year-old Torres, who can remember as a child when the town installed its first landline telephone. “We have a lot of customers coming from all over the world, and it’s difficult to communicate with them without being connected.”

Torres, a Verizon customer, said he has been forced to consider switching services after seeing the reception on his son’s AT&T phone.

The completion of the tower comes after delays as AT&T tightened its belt in 2012 and pulled money that had been set aside for the tower. Local politicians continued to pressure the company to address the community’s needs.

“Here, it was the citizens of Kraemer who demanded to have a cell tower from AT&T,” said Sue Sperry, AT&T public relations coordinator.

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