NEWFANE -- The communications over a Newfane cell tower are improving.
The Newfane Village Trustees called a special meeting for Saturday morning to meet with Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark, and with the Windham County assistant judges, to find out more about the 150-foot cell tower that Clark was talking about building with the help of VTel.
Clark needs to upgrade his communications tower near his office and the agreement with VTel would allow him to get a new tower and equipment for free.
Village Trustee Dick Marek said he first read about the tower in a story in the Brattleboro Reformer and he wanted to let Clark know that he didn't think the tower was a good fit for the historic village.
Clark told Marek that he talked with VTel officials last week and Clark thinks there might be a way for the company to install two or three smaller towers in the hills surrounding the village.
Clark said the company has not yet applied for a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board.
The tower has already caused friction with some Newfane Selectboard members who accused VTel officials of keeping too much of the information from them.
Marek, who is Newfane's state representative, argued that the center of Newfane deserved special consideration for being a National Historic site.
He said he understood Newfane's need to improve its cell and broadband coverage, adding that he said he supported Act 53, the law that was set up to spur more telecommunications growth in the state.
But he said the law demands that historic sites be taken in to consideration when siting towers.
Marek also said the original deed which turned the Newfane Common over to the county precludes any commercial activity from taking place on the land.
If Clark built the tower near his office he would also receive annual payments from VTel for leasing the tower.
Clark said neither he, nor the company, wanted a fight with the village or town, and he said it has become apparent that there might be better sites for the tower.
Clark said he was not keeping the proposed plans from anyone. He said he only reached a tentative deal with VTel in December and both the company and the sheriff's department were looking for input from the public about the plan.
But Clark also made it clear that his department has to upgrade its telecommunications capabilities.
Clark has to raise most of the money to run his department and so when VTel came to him offering to build a new tower for free it was impossible to say no.
Now though, the company was ready to begin looking elsewhere.
Clark said VTel was willing to help make sure his office was able to receive the signals from the surrounding towers.
Windham County Assistant Judge Lamont Barnett cautioned everyone from getting to excited about the deal.
Barnett said any time a tower is proposed someone comes out to oppose it.
There were no officials from VTel at the meeting and it was not certain that the company was ready to move on from its plan.
Marek called the meeting productive and helpful and he promised to help Clark, VTel and the village to find a way to build out cell service along Route 30 without having to build the tower.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.