To the editor:
AT&T has proposed a new cell tower on Buffalo Mountain in Hardwick. This tower is projected to provide coverage that is mostly redundant to service already provided by the tower on Bridgman Hill. The project does not comply with Hardwick’s Town Plan.
For the project to proceed, AT&T needs permission from the select board to use and significantly upgrade the trail that leads to the remote proposed site. It would require some blasting, clearing and substantial widening to transform it into a utility road. The town’s boards believed the project was “on hold” until the necessary permission was granted. However, AT&T filed the application with the Public Utilities Commission anyway, without mention of the pending approval by the select board. This started the 180-day clock for the PUC to issue a decision. There was a deadline of November 24 for the town to respond to the PUC. If the response period expired and there were no issues raised by the town, the project would have conveniently leap-frogged over potential obstacles like the town plan or public input.
The issue was brought to the attention of the select board at the November 19 meeting and AT&T agreed to the town’s request to file for an extension of that deadline, which was imminent. That deadline has now passed and the PUC has not officially extended the deadline yet. The planning commission held an emergency meeting to review the proposal on November 23.
To be clear, the proposed project does not address the issue of improved internet service, which is in the process of being resolved by Kingdom Fiber.
Buffalo Mountain is protected by the town plan. This is why Bridgman Hill was chosen as the site for the existing tower. According to the maps of projected coverage provided by AT&T, improvement to service will be marginal. So why does AT&T believe we need another tower? Why would they go to all this trouble to provide coverage that already exists? Why has AT&T filed an application with the PUC without having resolved the issues regarding the road and the tower with the town?