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DUANE — Adirondack Park Agency staff issued a permit for an 80-foot cell-phone tower in Duane that may not allow emergency officials to comply with international communication regulations.
And it seems to have come without the applicant's final review.
The Duane tower was in motion through APA when Verizon Wireless started looking to accommodate other carriers after a meeting with local officials and APA staff last month.
The officials, including Sen. Betty Little, were pushing for a higher tower due to safety concerns.
"Frankly, we were surprised by the issuance of the permit for the 80-foot tower," Verizon Wireless spokesman John O'Malley said in an e-mail Tuesday.
"Given the recent discussions among the various interested parties and our stated willingness to consider a higher height to improve anticipated coverage and allow for (co-location), we expected additional discussions to take place.
"We learned of the issuance of the permit when the news release came out on Monday."
At the February meeting, APA Acting Deputy Director of Regulatory Programs Holly Kneeshaw told commissioners that news reports saying the Duane tower was on hold were untrue; it had not been formally withdrawn.
A recent meeting with legislators and local officials apparently had not stopped the APA review clock.
The tower has been in design for almost three years.
Verizon Wireless agreed to lease the site at the Duane Volunteer Fire Department station in May 2007.
VERIZON WANTED DELAY
F. Gil Paddock, vice president and second assistant chief of the Fire Company, said the first tower pitched to APA was 120 feet tall.
But balloon tests and environmental review lowered it to 80 feet, which is what APA approved.
"Normally they (Verizon Wireless) get a copy of the permit to look it over and make sure everything's all right," Paddock said Tuesday. "They didn't get that this time.
"Verizon Wireless tried to delay the project and extend the time line, and all of a sudden, APA staff approves it. This tower is not being treated like all the others."
O'Malley said co-location options remain under discussion.
"We sent information to several potential partners to ascertain their interest. We haven't heard from all of them yet, but there is some interest in co-locating equipment on a taller site."
Added carriers require an additional 10 feet per array.
GOT CANADIAN OK
Duane fire officials, town and county officials — including the Franklin County Bar Association — approved resolutions supporting exploration of a taller tower at Duane's fire station because of its central Franklin County location, citing a need for broader civilian and emergency communications.
"Anyone within 50 miles of the Canadian border also has to go through (the) Canadian equivalent of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)," Paddock said.
"We went back and forth for two years with them denying the frequency. They finally came back with an approval at 98 feet. I'm not going to go through this again."
In its press release, the APA said that, in addition to a 12-panel Verizon Wireless array, the 80-foot tower would hold two wisp antennae: "one 18-foot for Franklin County Emergency Services and another 16-foot for the Duane Volunteer Fire Company (to) extend above the top of the tower for a total height of 98 and 96 feet, respectively."
But Paddock said the 96-foot wisp won't comply with Canadian radio-frequency requirements.
"The base of our antenna has to be at 98 feet; APA is talking the tip of the antenna. The license calls for 98 feet, pure and simple. We can't mount them in the air."
Even if Verizon Wireless submits a revised application to 120 feet, the cell tower would not reach 66 percent of area residents or more than 200 neighboring campsites, Paddock said.
It also will not reach about five miles of Route 30 that is without cell-phone service.
APA said the 80-foot tower in Duane will not be "readily apparent," a term different from the "substantially invisible" criteria typically used in tower review.
"'Readily apparent' does not trump public safety any more than 'substantially invisible,'" Paddock said.
"They are continually going back to that visual. APA rules are self-satisfying in their effort to not see anything man-made in the Adirondacks."
Franklin County Emergency Services and the Duane Volunteer Fire Department will have room to co-locate communication equipment, APA said "as requested, which enhances their ability to respond to emergencies."
But Paddock said 80 feet enhances nothing.
"It's like me giving you a 10-foot ladder to paint the eaves 24 feet tall."
E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at: firstname.lastname@example.org