HALIFAX -- Last week, some residents received a package that outlined a proposal from VTel for a wireless broadband facility on Old County Road.
Tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Halifax Town Offices, the public is invited to a meeting where the proposal will be discussed. It is likely that a lawyer representing VTel will travel from Burlington to go over any concerns or issues that residents have, weather permitting.
Selectboard member Earl Holtz told the Reformer that the package reached all abutters of the property at 72 Old County Road, where its resident has agreed to put up a telecommunications pole and facility. Along with that resident, the Halifax Selectboard and Planning Commission have also received the proposal.
On Sunday, a balloon test was conducted by VTel from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Holtz said there had been a vendor monitoring the balloon and another taking photographs that will be made available to people.
"It was a red balloon but the pole itself is going to be gray," he added. "If I understood correctly, they're going to PhotoShop the gray pole into the photograph where the balloon is or was so you can get a perspective of what it will look like in the neighborhood."
In Holtz's own opinion, he didn't think it looked bad at all. As a member of the Broadband and Economic Development Committee, he had been hopeful that an offer similar to the one VTel made would be made in town.
Halifax is one of the few towns still left in the state without higher speeds of broadband Internet service available for its residents.
Holtz told the Reformer that information from the package had suggested that the facility could connect up to 300 properties through its signals. It would potentially benefit residents and businesses in Whitingham and Marlboro as well.
The speed of the service would depend upon where a person lived and how much they pay for their service. It also could reach up to 50 megabytes, Holtz said.
"That's pretty decent. I wouldn't mind having that at my house," he added.
Although Holtz was not sure if the signals would reach his house, he spoke enthusiastically about the turnout of people for the balloon test and expected about the same amount of interested parties to attend the meeting on Tuesday.
If the facility goes up, it would be 100 feet away from the road and 100 feet from a cemetery near the property. A 10-foot-by-15-foot pad would be placed there with a cabinet containing electronics.
A 90-foot pole would be erected. It would include two microwave dishes and a set of radio transmitters below that would transmit broadband signals to the surrounding neighborhoods.
For the project, a small right-of-way will have to be obtained that would go from Jacksonville Stage Road to the proposed site.
As far as allowances go, the Selectboard will not decide if it moves forward. But its members can sign a letter of support which VTel has included in its package. A similar letter from the Windham Regional Commission has also been requested.
"It would be up to VTel to figure out whether they had a positive response or too negative to go ahead or not go ahead," Holtz said, recalling recent situations in neighboring towns where lack of local support changed plans.
In both Newfane and Wardsboro, VTel agreed to move its proposed locations for similar sites due to local opinion, although the state ultimately has the final say.
When plans for installing broadband antennas on the Wardsboro Methodist Church were discussed, local residents conveyed their lack of interest for the proposed site. VTel had received a certificate of public good for the project but trustees of the church had voted to terminate the agreement after hearing from those who opposed the project.
"After three years, I'm hoping that won't be the case with this and that it will stay positive," said Holtz.
The only issue, which he and the others who combed over the approximately 30-page document had found, was with conflicting numbers. In it, there were two different measurements referenced for the height of the pole.
They discussed it in the cold during the balloon test.
"There is one statement in the document that says 140 feet. That kind of got people a little concerned," concluded Holtz. "They ran the balloon test at 90 so the deal, as I understand it, is for a 90-foot pole.
He believes that VTel would have to conduct the balloon test all over again if it wanted the pole to reach 140 feet.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.