Falmouth cell tower focus returns to Town Hall

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FALMOUTH — A debate over cell phone towers in a rural neighborhood was put on hold Monday, when a scheduled public hearing was postponed at the request of applicant Verizon Wireless.

Instead, most of discussion focused on an agreement with AT&T about replacing the current public safety communication tower behind Town Hall with a new monopole tower for municipal and public use.

The tower would have room for up to three cellular service providers, including AT&T, which would bear all costs for the installation.

The current tower is 80 feet tall with a 20-foot antenna on top. It was used when the Police Department was at that location, but, according to Town Manager Nathan Poore, has been “disengaged” since 2008, when the department moved to 2 Marshall Drive.

“After technical review of the tower, AT&T decided a new tower would be needed,” Poore said.

According to Community Development Director Amanda Stearns, this pole does not require the same sort of permitting as the similarly sized tower proposed by Verizon, because it is not on private land and was originally built only for public safety communications.

The proposed new tower would be 120 feet tall, with a 20 foot antenna. Like the previous tower, the new one would be 3 feet in diameter, but would not be as transparent, since it would be solid as opposed to the old tower’s truss design.

AT&T would lease the land for the tower from the town. The initial lease would be for 10 years, but it could be renewed three times, each for an additional five years, for a maximum of 25 years. AT&T would pay the town $36,000 a year plus inflation costs. There would be a 30 percent revenue sharing to the town for any cellular carriers in addition to AT&T.

Terms of the agreement were discussed in executive sessions. The council scheduled an opportunity for the public to address the council on Oct. 15. While not technically a public hearing, councilors said the notification process will be the same: all abutters within 750 feet will be notified, and a notice will be published.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Final comments heard before Falmouth library vote

FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday held the final public hearing for the Nov. 4 referendum question to borrow just over $2.8 million to renovate and expand Falmouth Memorial Library.

After a long series of discussions and hearings, the council endorsed the bond on Sept. 8 and sent it to referendum. The town promised to match funds of up to 50 percent, or just over $2.8 million, that library trustees said will be matched by a capital campaign and other fundraising.

Only five members of the public spoke Monday on the issue. Four of them expressed support for the project, including Maura Denoia of Cedarwood Drive, who said she has been “a faithful patron of the library for 17 years.”

Denoia said she watched the library “try to keep pace” as the town grew, and said “the library needs more space.”

The only dissenter was Michael Doyle, of Applegate Lane, who called the project “a total waste of money,” saying technology would likely overtake the need and desire to use a library.

“What we’re building is the best buggy and whip factory just before the Model T came out,” Doyle said. 

The referendum question asks voters to vote “Yes” if they approve the town matching the funds for the renovation, or “No” if they do not want to see the town commit the funding.

The project will nearly double the size of the library, and will cost a total of $5.6 million. There is also just over $300,000 in pre-construction costs, including preliminary design development, survey revisions, construction documents and bidding, plus others in the nine-month period leading up to construction.

The anticipated average annual interest rate during the 20-year term of the bond is between 2.75 percent and 3.5 percent.

Construction would begin next year, and last up to 10 months.

Despite initial concern over funding from councilors, they voiced unanimous support for the project on Sept. 8, when they voted 6-0, with Councilor Claudia King absent.

— Colin Ellis

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.