Sporty's Iron Duke Saloon, Minerva
Verizon Wireless officials have changed their location for a potential cell tower site in Minerva, catching town and state officials off guard.
Verizon Wireless spokesman John O'Malley said March 12 that his company signed a one-year land lease agreement with the owners of Sporty’s Iron Duke Saloon in Minerva, which is across State Route 28N from the originally planned cell tower site on land owned by the town of Minerva.
“After completing our investigation, we decided the property behind the town hall was not an ideal location because of concerns from the APA and town of Minerva,” O’Malley said.
An engineer at Tectonic, the company hired by Verizon to build the cell tower, recently told Minerva Town Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey that Verizon had asked them to put plans for the tower on hold.
“On my end, everything is done,” Tectonic engineer Jean Marie Frawley said about the original site. “It’s up to Verizon and the APA to complete this project.”
Verizon signed a land lease with the town of Minerva in 2009 to build a tower on town property at 5 Morse Memorial Highway. After completing a balloon test on the location, Verizon abandoned the idea of using that property to build its Minerva tower, but that was news to town officials.
Corey said last week that town residents have been anxiously waiting for the promised cell tower since the agreement was signed.
“People here, like everywhere, have a need to stay connected,” Corey said. “We are surprised we haven’t heard anything about the project since March 2011.”
In March 2011, a team of Verizon technicians performed a balloon test at the potential cell tower site, where large yellow balloons were released and tied off at the exact height of the proposed cell tower. Later, Corey received a letter from Frawley on behalf of Tectonic:
“It was obvious from the balloon test at this site, as well as subsequent additional conversations with you and the representative from the Adirondack Park Agency that there are significant concerns with the visible impact of the proposed structure,” Frawley wrote. “Verizon Wireless has been giving serious attention to those concerns and must make sure that all options for a proposed facility are thoroughly considered.”
O’Malley said he had no further details on when tests at the newly leased location will be held but Verizon Wireless plans to begin testing the site to meet APA and town approval as soon as possible.
APA Public Information Director Keith McKeever said March 8 that Verizon hasn’t attempted to make contact with the APA since March 2011.
“We have an open application that is incomplete, and we’re waiting for Verizon to provide us with the information we need to finish that project,” McKeever said about the original cell tower site.
To complete an application, McKeever said Verizon must formally submit a visual analysis with photo simulations to show what the tower will look like in its potential location.
“As part of the application process, we asked them to consider some alternative sites,” McKeever said. “We talked to (Verizon) in January and again in March 2011 and at those times we were under the impression they were going to be proceeding and looking for alternative sites. Since then we have not had any type of contact with them about this project.”
McKeever said the process of putting up a cell tower in the Adirondack Park can vary based on location of the tower and other circumstances, but it is not common for a project like this to be dormant for two years.
On the VerizonWireless.com coverage locator, Internet users can get a visual on the Verizon coverage in their area. If an area is in the “red” it means there is talk and text capability. When the area is white it means there is no communication capability. In the town of Minerva and surrounding area, the coverage is completely white.
The lack of cell coverage poses a safety problem in the case of an accident, according to Corey.
“We’ve had many instances last winter where cars went off the road between Newcomb and Minerva,” Corey said. “Luckily no one has been seriously injured, but if someone is in serious need they may have to wait on the side of the road for someone to come help them.”
David “Sporty” Beale, owner of Sporty's Iron Duke Saloon, said March 14 that Verizon Wireless signed a one-year land lease in November 2011 to build a tower on the mountain behind the restaurant.
“We have absolutely no service here. It’s terrible,” Beale said. “If and when we get service people could report car accidents, snowmobile accidents, hiking accidents. We really need it here.”
Verizon has not announced when the plans for the tower will be put before the local government or the APA.
“If they could hurry up and get this tower up and working that would be great,” Beale said.