ADIRONDACKS – Lagging cell coverage in the northwestern Saratoga County portion of the Adirondack Park could be in line for a boost.
New Cingular Wireless PSC, doing business as AT&T Mobility, has proposed to build a wireless communications facility that would include a tower with antennas, associated ground equipment and a generator surrounded by a chain link fence at 402 Military Road in Edinburg.
AT&T Mobility Group retained Costich Engineering to prepare a visual analysis and impact assessment on the proposed wireless telecommunications site in Edinburg, on land the company would lease from owner Roger Scott of Middle Grove.
The Adirondack Park Agency is considering the proposal to construct a 101-foot-tall monopine telecommunications tower, concealed as a 106-foot-tall “simulated tree” in the tourist community of less than 1,400 residents within the Adirondack Park on the shores of the Great Sacandaga Lake.
The tower would support cellular antennas at a centerline mounting height of 97 feet above ground level, according to project plans.
An equipment platform and generator are also proposed at the tower’s base.
The tower would be located approximately 250 feet from an existing APA-authorized tower and would be served by an existing access road and a new 122-foot access drive to the tower site.
The Adirondack Park Agency, which oversees land use in the 6-million-acre park, closed the public comment period for the proposed project last week.
The APA has a policy that cell towers should be “substantially invisible.”
In this portion of the Adirondacks, residents are mostly reliant on Wi-Fi for cellphone dependability.
The town of Edinburg has only recently enjoyed cell coverage. But it’s the kind of service where, if a motorist gets more than two bars on a cell phone, he or she would “slam on the brakes” and pull over on the side of the road to make a call, according to Edinburg Town Supervisor Jean Raymond.
The limited signal appeared last year when Saratoga County leased antenna space on its emergency radio communications tower network to commercial carrier Verizon Wireless.
“I am sitting in an office two miles from where that tower is,” Raymond said Tuesday. “I don’t get any better reception. There are trees in the way.”
Raymond said she’s hopeful that, if approved, the AT&T tower would improve cell coverage.
But at less than 110 feet, she said, it would be just at the top of tree lines. In fact, it would be lower than Verizon’s leased tower at the top of the hill, Raymond said.
Hadley Town Supervisor Arthur Wright said it’s imperative that the region get better cell service.
It’s no longer a convenience for people, as cellphone service is a necessity for public safety, Wright points out.
“It’s time to get the Adirondack Park in the 21st Century,” he said. “It’s technology that’s out there that we need. We don’t have it.” With tourism the region’s main economic driver, Hadley has many out of towners who lack cell coverage when they’re driving on backroads or hiking, he said.
“Somebody goes off the road, it may only be hours before another car comes along, and they have no way of getting help,” Wright said. “All of our sheriffs, everybody depends on cell service for communication. And we don’t have it. There are way too many dead spots when our fire departments go out there.”
“Knock on wood, but we have not had a crisis like they’ve had other parts of the park that resulted in deaths and serious injury,” she said. “But sure, if you’re out on a snowmobile or a sled in the middle of winter, and you hit an ice ridge and you break your leg? You better hope you’re out far enough in the middle somewhere that you pick up a signal if you try to call for help.”
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.