POWNAL – The missing piece to the puzzle that will provide cell phone service from Massachusetts to Manchester is ready to be placed. The Development Review Board granted Michael and Marilyn Gardner, in partnership with Verizon, a permit on Monday to put a temporary cell tower on wheels on their Mann Hill Road farm.
“It’s good for us. Maybe by December we’ll get cell service,” said Zoning Administrator Nelson Brownell on Tuesday. “They’re hoping to get working on it right away.”
The cell on wheels, abbreviated COW, is basically a cell phone tower on a flatbed truck, according to Brian Sullivan, the attorney for Verizon. The COW would stand 106 feet tall, and on the ground there will be a van carrying electronics and an emergency generator on wheels.
The COW is usually rented out for temporary service during sporting events, concerts or on dangerous winter roads where there is not normally service, according to Sullivan.
At a public information meeting held in September, Sullivan told residents and town officials that the tower will only be up for six to eight months and will be removed after a windmill/cell tower combination is built.
DRB secretary Julie Weber said on Tuesday that no conditions regarding the length of time the tower can be up were placed on the permit, but the board emphasized that it would be temporary. Other conditions, she said, included that the wires be underground, no trees can be cut down, the access road to the tower needs to be upgraded and the town would have a copy of the company’s insurance certificate.
“There wasn’t anything super restrictive,” said Brownell.
Verizon has been building a line of cell towers along Route 7 going from Williamstown, Mass., to Mount Taber. All of the other towers were installed and Verizon has filed permits to create a cell tower/windmill on the Gardner farm. The first permit was rejected by the Public Service Board, forcing Verizon to reapply. In the meantime, Verizon applied to the local government to install a temporary tower that would allow the others to be activated.
“It’s going up. They want to start working very soon,” said Chairman of the DRB Francis “Frank” Lamb on Tuesday.
There is currently a tower on the Harsh property in South Pownal as well as one in Williamstown. Eight more towers, including one in North Pownal, cannot be activated until a tower is installed in Pownal Center. According to Sullivan, the Gardner farm is the only location the tower could be in Pownal Center.
The cell tower/windmill was rejected by the board because of jurisdiction issues. The state Public Service Board did not have the power to approve net-metered windmills at the time Verizon applied, but new state legislation, which took effect in June, now provides the board with that ability.
The town took offense to Verizon applying for permits through the Public Service Board, which created some tension between the local government and Verizon. “The real issue with the combination was that it looked like they were trying to go around the town,” said Brownell.
At the public information meeting, Verizon officials explained that they were not trying to exclude the town’s opinion; instead, they were unsure of the best way to receive the permits for the unique structure.
By Andy McKeever
7 November 2007
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