PITTSFORD — The Select Board voted 4-0 with one abstention to voice its opposition to AT&T’s chosen location for a cell tower intended to improve emergency communications.
A few more than 50 people showed up to the Wednesday board meeting, which was held at Lothrop Elementary School in anticipation of a large crowd.
House Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Pittsford, explained that permitting for the proposed 140-foot tower off Oxbow Road is entirely under the purview of the Public Utility Commission. While town zoning bylaws don’t govern it, the town can make its views known to the commission, as can abutting landowners and others party to the quasi-judicial proceeding.
He said people should contact Clay Purvis, director of the Telecommunications and Connectivity Division of the Department of Public Service, if they have any questions about how to get involved in the process. He said the Department of Public Service exists to represent the public in matters before the Public Utility Commission.
AT&T has proposed this tower because it was awarded a federal contract to do so. It’s part of the First Responder Network, also known as FirstNet, which was authorized by Congress in 2012. Towers, or modifications to existing towers, have been proposed by AT&T in Benson, Killington and Mount Holly.
The company may be exploring other options, however. Town Manager John Haverstock said at the meeting he’d received an email from AT&T saying given the feedback it received from a Pittsford Planning Commission meeting Oct. 24, it was exploring other options.
Those who spoke at the Wednesday meeting were concerned about the Oxbow Road tower’s potential impacts to the area’s aesthetics and their property values. Several pointed out there are other locations, and other existing towers, AT&T could use that wouldn’t have these impacts and would provide far better coverage than what the company is now proposing.
Jan Sotirakis, head of the Chittenden Emergency Management Team, said if Pittsford doesn’t want the tower, Chittenden will take one, as cell service there is poor. She said she’d been working to improve warning systems in case the dam at Chittenden Reservoir ever fails and having better cell coverage would aid that endeavor.
Resident Shane Racette said he has a relative who works in communications engineering field who looked at this situation and identified better locations AT&T could use. He shared that information with the Select Board, which agreed to pass on information and comments to the company and the state.