The Hadley-Luzerne area at the northern edge of Saratoga County should have its best cellphone service ever by fall.
For many corners of the community, it will be its first service.
AT&T and Saratoga County have reached an agreement that will allow the cellphone provider to locate a commercial antenna on a county emergency communications tower in Lake Luzerne.
The proposal approved Tuesday by the county Public Safety Committee has been in the works for about six months and is anxiously awaited by residents who don’t have cell service.
“We have none,” said Hadley Supervisor Arthur “Mo” Wright. “That’s why we’ve been pushing to get this.”
It is the first commercial co-location on any of the county’s public safety communications towers, though county officials said they are open to allowing it at other sites.
The most likely sites for shared towers are in the northern part of the county, where the hills and narrow valleys at the southern tip of the Adirondacks make antenna-based communications difficult.
Rules set by the Adirondack Park Agency to limit the visual impact of cell towers have prevented the construction of large mountaintop towers, but the AT&T proposal is expected to get a relatively quick approval because it is co-locating on an existing tower site.
“It’s just administrative [APA] approval,” Wright said.
He hopes service will be in place by early fall.
The county’s radio tower is on the town of Luzerne’s water tower, located on a ridge above Route 9N. While it is located in Warren County, Saratoga County got permission to put a public safety tower there because of its ability to reach locations in Hadley.
AT&T will make a one-time payment to Saratoga County of $25,000, but the future monthly lease payments will belong to the town of Luzerne, as the property owner, said Paul Lent, Saratoga County’s director of emergency services.
The Luzerne tower is one of three new emergency communications towers in the southern Adirondacks. They are part of the county’s new $14.5 million emergency radio system. The county is in the last phases of activating the new system for police, fire and ambulance personnel, after 15 years of work.
Lent said the county is open to allowing commercial co-locations on any of its towers, subject to a case-by-case review.
“We foremost picked these sites for public safety, and if they work for cellular, that’s great,” he said.
Commercial cell service itself can be a public safety issue, Lent acknowledged — someone calling 911 with an emergency wouldn’t be able to get a signal right now in most of Hadley.
Such service would have been helpful last winter, he said, when a section of North Shore Road washed out, and this spring, on the evening rumors were rampant that the Conklingville Dam was going to break because of flooding in Great Sacandaga Lake.
“A lot of people just assume 911 will work,” Lent said. “It’s not only residents we’re concerned about, it’s people visiting the area.”