KEENE VALLEY - A recent public hearing gave residents here a chance to dialogue about a plan to bring cellular phone service to much of the hamlet.
Officials from Verizon Wireless and the Adirondack Park Agency joined more than 30 Keene residents at the Keene Valley Fire Department Jan. 19, presenting information about a project currently under APA review.
The proposal is for the lease of a 100-by-100-foot parcel behind Keene Valley Neighborhood House on Route 73, where Verizon plans to install a 129-foot "monopine" cell phone tower.
Sarah Mayberry-Stevens, Network Real Estate Manager for Verizon Wireless, said the tower will provide cell phone service, bluetooth, and wireless broadband internet to much of the Keene Valley region. Coverage from the tower would stretch along Route 73 from the existing coverage region in Keene to just north of St. Huberts.
Most residents expressed their approval of the project, including KVFD fire chief Rusty Hall.
"On a public safety end, I can't tell you how crucial this will be," he said, noting how cellular service can be a useful communication tool for emergency responders.
Hall presented a petition in favor of the project and mentioned how many people had already signed it, including visitors and seasonal residents to the town.
Neighborhood House Executive Director Richard Rothstein expressed his support for the project, noting how access to cellular service will be valuable to both his facility and the community as a whole.
"For me, and for the general community, it's a safety issue," he said. "Certainly my facility needs access to reliable communication."
Rothstein said the land lease contract with Verizon will generate roughly $500,000 for KVNH through the next 25 years.
But not everyone was wholeheartedly behind the proposed tower.
"I'm afraid that we're going to end up like everywhere else," said Robin Shaver, expressing her opposition to rampant cell phone use in a town known for being removed from urban society.
Others questioned the potential health hazards of a cell phone tower, expressing concern about the UHF radiation it would generate.
Mayberry-Stevens said the radiation levels were well below Federal Communications Commission standards, and that there is no significant concern among health experts for the antennas.
Rothstein said he personally researched independently produced literature on the tower radiation, and said he had no worries about health issues.
"I was satisfied that... I would not be risking my health or the health of my residents," he said.
The Adirondack Park Agency will accept public comments on the proposed cell tower until Feb. 1. A Feb. 12 formal hearing is scheduled where APA board members will review the project.
Mayberry-Stevens said that if the project is approved, the tower could be installed as early as next year.