CHAZY LAKE — Negotiations are underway to bring enhanced cellphone coverage to rural stretches of Chazy Lake and beyond.
Town of Dannemora and Verizon Wireless officials have been working closely to reach an agreement on the possible installation of a cell tower near the new Town Hall and Highway Department off Route 374.
The poor quality or lack of cellphone service in the area has been an ongoing issue in recent years, and town officials are making contract negotiations a priority for their 2014 agenda.
Discussions are still in the preliminary phase as attorneys and officials from both entities work to finalize the terms of any possible contracts.
Verizon recently submitted an initial proposal, and Town Attorney William Favreau told councilors and supervisor: “Now it’s up to the town to go back (and negotiate).”
The council discussed the proposal at a recent meeting, noting that while the progress is encouraging, they also hope to refine any possible contract to include faster movement on any future project.
As proposed, Verizon is looking to secure an option agreement with the town to provide the municipality $2,000 to study the area for one year “to see if this is where they want a tower,” Favreau said.
The current proposal indicates they could extend that study for a second year before Verizon decides whether to enter into a formal land-lease agreement with the town.
Favreau said Verizon’s initial lease terms propose a five-year contract at $18,000 with an option to extend its service and use for up to 20 years, with rent adjustments possible for any extension.
Verizon would also reserve the right to opt out of the contract at any point, Favreau noted.
“This is similar to what they do with other municipalities.”
He said that if the council ultimately agrees to the study option, it would essentially approve the proposed land-lease agreement, and he advised officials to finalize the details of both to their satisfaction before moving ahead.
Councilor Ken Brassard said the town previously began working with a smaller, independent cell-tower company but ultimately opted to enter discussions with Verizon.
“They were going to offer us more and provide the service,” he said.
While the negotiations appear promising, Supervisor William “Bill” Chase said, town officials would want any future project to move faster than currently suggested if and when APA approval is secured.
“We wanted the project done in 16 months (after APA approval), but they wanted a little leeway,” he said of the ongoing discussions.
With the final language of the contracts still under negotiation, Brassard and Chase suggested officials and attorneys from both parties meet to further discuss the proposals.
They plan to address the issue again at the next town meeting, set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26. The meeting is open to all.