WARDSBORO -- Wardsboro Methodist Church trustees have pulled the plug on a wireless-broadband project.
Trustee Nancy Perkins said the decision to cancel a project developed by VTel Wireless was "pretty easy" in the wake of a meeting last week at the Town Hall, where some complained about plans to place antennas inside the historic church’s steeple.
"It would have been really, really difficult if we said, ‘Yes,’" Perkins said.
Meanwhile, VTel is exploring other options in Wardsboro, company President Michel Guité said Tuesday.
"We’ve already heard from two people offering possibilities," Guité said.
The Springfield-based company, backed by federal and state funding, is working on approximately 200 wireless sites in Vermont as part of a push to bring high-speed Internet access to every home by year’s end.
VTel had inked a contract with Wardsboro Methodist Church. In September, the company received state Public Service Board approval to place six panel antennas inside the structure’s steeple.
A few months later, however, church trustees voted to stop working with VTel after hearing from residents who had concerns about the project’s impacts or said they had not been properly notified.
But talks continued, and VTel representatives on Thursday participated in a question-and-answer session in Wardsboro.
"We realized we really needed to clear the
Some in attendance spoke in favor of the project, with a few saying they still rely on slow dial-up Internet connections. Others -- including next-door neighbor Paul Rush -- criticized VTel’s methods.
Rush said he was particularly worried about electromagnetic radiation from VTel’s antennas.
"Everybody wants (broadband). I want it," Rush said at Thursday’s meeting. "I just don’t want it across from my house particularly."
Due to those concerns and others, Perkins on Tuesday said church trustees voted unanimously to terminate the project.
"Once we got together, it was pretty easy because of the meeting Thursday night," Perkins said.
Last week, an attorney representing VTel said the company, due to a streamlined state-permitting process, was under no obligation to apply for a town permit for the antennas.
But some now say it would have been better if there had been more local input.
"Local zoning was just not involved," Perkins said. "Had it been involved, there would have been a hearing."
With no such hearing happening early in the process, "I think that’s where things took a bad turn, probably," Perkins said.
On Tuesday, Guité disclosed that VTel not only lost the deal with Wardsboro Methodist Church but also has ended talks with another Wardsboro church.
"The Wardsboro Methodist Church that had a signed contract canceled, then the West Wardsboro Yoked Parish Baptist Church also canceled the same day," Guité said in an e-mail to the Reformer.
Guité has pledged that VTel will not seek legal or financial penalties even though the Methodist church backed out of its contract. There had not yet been a contract signed with the Baptist church.
He took a philosophical approach to those developments.
"It’s all in a day’s work," Guité said. "Some people make agreements rapidly and with a smile, and that’s the way we like to do things."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.