EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 2, 2013

Atkinson could see cell tower this year

Town would collect rent on parcel

By Alex Lippa

---- — ATKINSON — Spotty cell phone service in the center of town may soon be a thing of the past.

Global Tower Partners, the largest privately owned tower company in the U.S., is attempting to get a cell phone tower built behind the fire station.

“Currently, the downtown of Atkinson doesn’t even have 3G,” said James George, a wireless consultant who is working with Global Tower. “The towers on the (Route) 111 side and the (Route) 125 side simply aren’t getting into downtown because of the topography.”

George presented an informal proposal to the Board of Selectmen last month. Selectmen reserved judgment on the plan until they saw a more detailed financial proposal for the tower.

George said the proposed tower would be paid for by the tower developer — at no cost to the town. The company is looking for a lease on a 1,600-square-foot parcel on Academy Avenue.

“They would pay us rent and it would be a source of revenue for the town,” Selectman Todd Barbera said.

At a meeting Dec. 3, Selectman William Friel said the board will need to examine any proposal carefully before making a decision.

“I want to know who is Global Tower?” Friel said. “Their financials and their background. We need to know who the entity is that is proposing it. About every three months, we have another cell tower company who comes up with a new idea and a new place.”

In 2007, the town attempted to have a tower constructed for public safety purposes, but it was denied by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

“I don’t think the political climate was there to get this done,” George said. “Now, the wireless coverage has really matured.”

George emphasized the plans for this tower remain in preliminary phases and his main reason for being at the meeting was to gauge interest among the selectmen. The plan would have to be approved by two of the three selectmen.

He said he hopes the tower would bring much needed wireless coverage to the town and also have a positive environmental impact.

“We can bring in solar and perhaps some micro winds, which can reduce the carbon, reduce the fixed cost of energy to the municipalities and level off their budgets a little bit,” he said.

Preliminary plans call for the tower to be 180 feet tall and hold four wireless carriers, as well as provide space for public safety equipment. The tower needs to be above an 80-foot tree level.

“The taller, the better,” George said.

But the tower would not provide adequate coverage to all of Atkinson. George said there would need to be another tower near Atkinson Country Club to do so, but for now he is focused on getting one built behind the fire station.