PUTNEY -- At Wednesday night's Selectboard meeting, AT&T continued making its case for installing an 85-foot temporary cell tower in the center of the village.
About a dozen people showed up for the meeting, some to support the plan and others to oppose it and seek answers from Beth Kohler, who was representing AT&T.
Kohler spoke, and answered questions for almost two hours, but the Selectboard declined to vote on its recommendation for the temporary tower.
The board will meet with the Planning Commission next week to discuss the issue one more time before deciding how the town will vote.
AT&T is looking for a permanent cell tower site, but until that location is secured the company wants to put up the temporary cell tower on land across from Basketville, near Mountain Paul's, along Route 5.
Putney's cell tower zoning ordinance prohibits free standing cell towers in the village, but the state's 248 permit process puts decisions on cell tower siting in the hands of the Public Service Board.
At the meeting Selectboard Chairman Josh Laughlin explained that while the board was trying to gauge the feelings of residents, the board's vote would only be one consideration the PSB would use in making its decision.
"We can either recommend to the Public Service Board that they approve this, or we can recommend against it, but we don't have jurisdiction," Laughlin said. "The Selectboard does not have say as to whether this goes forward or not. We can have an opinion, and that's about all we can do."
Kohler, who is from Downs Rachlin Martin, explained why AT&T needed to install a temporary cell tower in the village.
She said another company, Verizon Wireless, purchased the wireless network from Unicel in 2008.
The Department of Justice ruled that Verizon should not keep the network in Vermont because it would lead to too much market concentration in the state.
AT&T eventually purchased the Vermont network while Verizon retained New Hampshire.
Unicel had developed the network in both states, and for the following five years AT&T and Verizon have been developing their own networks in each state and slowly dividing the facilities Unicel had built.
The tower in Westmoreland N.H. has been the primary site for delivering cell service to Putney and now AT&T is trying to build out service in Vermont.
Kohler said the two companies do share roaming agreement, but in the long run both companies are trying to strengthen their service in the individual states.
"AT&T is attempting to build out this side of Vermont for the coverage it lost on the New Hampshire side," Kohler said. "It's important that each carrier build their networks to be able to provide the best service for its customers."
AT&T is looking for a permanent cell tower site, but until that is secured Kohler says the company wants to put up the temporary cell tower in Putney for up to 18 months.
The temporary tower will only improve service in the village and within a circle that is about a mile across.
One of the Selectboard's main concerns is not being able to ensure that AT&T will remove the tower after a year or two.
Even after AT&T builds its permanent tower Laughlin wanted to know if AT&T would remove the tower if it needed it for coverage in the village.
"How do we know this thing won't be here in 15 years?" Laughlin asked.
Koehler said if the company gets a CPG for the tower the certificate would not have a time limit on it.
But at the same time she said AT&T wanted to find a permanent site.
AT&T used a temporary tower in Alstead, Lempster and Lebanon, N.H., and in each community the towers only remained in place for a year or so, Kohler said.
"Temporary in our view is until the permanent site is up," Kohler said. "The objective is to keep the temporary site until the permanent comes up. AT&T really doesn't have an incentive to keep this site at this location any longer than is necessary."
The date for next week's meeting with the Selectboard and Planning Commission had not been confirmed at press time.
Check the "Meetings" section in the Reformer for the date and time of the meeting next week.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.