The Board of Ouray (Colorado) County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting was held Monday morning with the controversial topic of a proposed Verizon Wireless tower brought up by local residents. The meeting became a bit overheated at times, but overall local residents felt they had a good response from the BOCC.
The controversial topic of allowing an 80 ft. cell phone tower by Verizon Wireless on top of Log Hill Mesa has been debated since 2007. The proposed tower will sit on the edge of a cliff overlooking the town of Ridgway, Colorado, for all to see. The site for this tower will be in a residential neighborhood and as such violates both zoning and visual impact regulations. A variance was granted by the BOCC in 2009 to allow for the Verizon tower.
The proposed Verizon Wireless tower is intended to support three separate systems including the Ouray County VHF system, the Statewide Digital Trunked Radio System Network (DTR), and Verizon Wireless commericial applications.
Local resident Dennis Michaud brought up the topic of the tower for discussion. Michaud who retired from AT&T and its subsidiaries after more than 30 years of service, felt qualified to bring up the technical issues with the tower. Michaud spoke for 15 minutes on the subject and cited that more research needs to be down by the County Commissioners as well as Verizon Wireless. Michaud noted he has not seen any plan giving an analysis of the site and what is specifically needed. Michaud suggested to the BOCC that a plan is needed to determine whether or not an 80 ft. tower is needed.
Michaud suggested the following be included in a plan:
- A baseline analysis clearly articulating the current situation in factual terms.
- The clearly identified need/goal in terms of coverage, reliability, performance, etc.
- The specific obstacles in achieving the goal.
- A fact based technical and financial analysis of alternative solutions.
- A recommendation for action based on the above.
A major technical problem with the proposed site on Log Hill is that there is some unknown source of electronic noise interference. Experts have not been able to identify the source of the problem and it’s very likely that the current noise interference will also interfere with the tower.
The goal of adding the proposed Verizon Wireless tower has also not been defined. A former County Commissioner, Alan Staehle is pushing this project in the hopes that emergency personnel will have better communication once the Verizon Wireless tower is erected. However, in 2007 Staehle states in a report entitled “2007 Alltel/Ouray County Public Safety Partnership”, that “the County presently has almost 100% mobile radio coverage”. The question Michaud points out is if the current system is almost at 100%, then why is another tower needed? What percentage requirements are being asked for?
Mike Budai, another local resident with a strong telecommunications background, offered his technical expertise on the subject by asking the BOCC if they had received a performance guarantee from Verizon Wireless. Budai noted that a performance guarantee is an industry standard and if the County does not have one, it indicates that the appropriate studies have not been conducted by Verizon Wireless. Budai also noted that since there is substantial frequency interference already on Log Hill, then adding the tower will not solve the problem.
Both Budai and Michaud suggested that other sites be looked at for the proposed Verizon Wireless tower.
At the end of the discussion, Ouray County Commissioner Heidi Albritton asked that Michaud and Budai meet with representatives from Verizon Wireless along with Staehle to review the technical issues of the proposed tower on Log Hill. Albritton then asked for a future public hearing regarding the technical issues of the tower be added to the agenda once the technical experts have met.
The discussion of the tower was mainly congenial and fact oriented. There was some heated discussion when several local residents called the County Commissioners ‘biased’ and some wanted to know who the County lawyer worked for. County Commissioner Keith Meinert did not want the hearings to be reflected as biased although as soon as Michaud began his technical discussion on the tower, Meinert abruptly pushed his laptop forward and away from him while crossing his arms across his chest.
Sources: D. Michaud / “Improving Public Safety Communications: A Technical Analysis”