NEWFANE -- Having made his case to Newfane officials, Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark is taking his push for a new, 150-foot tower directly to town residents.
Clark has launched a public campaign in support of the tower, which would be built by Vermont Telephone Co. Inc. for wireless broadband but also would host the sheriff's emergency-radio equipment.
One way or another, Clark warns, the department needs a new tower at its Newfane Village headquarters. The VTel proposal, he says, makes the most sense and saves taxpayer money.
"We're just trying to put out as much information as we can and keep the discussion going," Clark said.
Springfield-based VTel in December disclosed plans for a 150-foot tower that would stand 18 feet beyond the north wall of the sheriff's office on Jail Street in historic Newfane Village.
It is part of a state-supported and federally funded effort allowing VTel to expand its wireless-broadband network by about 180 sites across Vermont. Governor Peter Shumlin has pledged to spread high-speed Internet access to every home by the end of this year.
The tower, while not presently geared toward cell-phone service, would have room for cellular providers to collocate.
And by hosting the sheriff's radio equipment, it would allow Clark to replace his aging communications tower -- an 87-foot structure attached to his office -- with a new, taller tower at no cost to the sheriff's
"Without the tower, we lose a key piece of our communications with my deputies. Radio communications were integral during our response to Tropical Storm Irene when cell phone circuits were overloaded," Clark wrote in a recent press release.
"This system allows my deputies to communicate with my dispatch; it enables deputies to respond promptly, maintain officer safety and get dangerous drivers off the road," he added. "Without this tower, my dispatch loses the two-way capability of our radio system."
In that same release, Clark asked Newfane residents to "contact their Selectboard representatives to voice their support of the replacement of our tower."
At the Selectboard's Thursday meeting, officials did not say much about the VTel proposal. The company has not yet applied for a permit from the state Public Service Board.
Selectboard Chairman Jon Mack said the potential project touches both the town and the village as well as the county and those who are interested in historic preservation.
"It's a complex issue that involves more than this Selectboard," Mack said, adding that "there's some time to consider this and see what people think."
Clark said he has heard no strong objections to the project.
"I've only received one e-mail against the tower," he said. "I have received a couple phone calls in support of it."
Clark also said he is hoping residents rally behind the VTel plan.
"I really would like to think that the community my office sits in supports my department," he said.
He has posted tower-related documents, including plans and simulated photos, on the sheriff's website: www.windhamsheriff.com. They are available by clicking on the "sheriff's corner" link.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.