Chappaquiddick Tower: A Monstrosity or a Life Saver?

Last week, AT&T went before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) to get approval to move forward with a permanent, 113-foot tower structure on Chappaquiddick Island (Chappy) to further improve service for residents, visitors, and emergency responders. The Martha’s Vineyard Times reported the proposed tower will replace a temporary tower that now serves AT&T customers. The new tower will also have the potential for co-location with two other telecoms; Verizon Wireless has expressed interest.

The current tower is a monopole but the new, permanent structure will have 9-panel antennas mounted on the exterior, needed to fulfill the demand for wireless service, especially during the summer. The temporary tower has increased AT&T coverage to 78 percent of Chappy, including the beaches, reported The Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Local police and fire chiefs support the project. According to Edgartown Police Chief David Rossi, “We have communications over there that we didn’t have before. We’ve had several emergency calls that wouldn’t have gone through without it.”

One resident, after suffering a chainsaw accident told the commissioners, “They were able to find me because they could zero in on my cell signal. Before the tower, I would never have gotten through,” he told the Times, “That cell tower saved my life. I live in the shadow of the tower and I love seeing it.”

However, there is also staunch opposition from Chappy residents who called the tower a “monstrosity.” One resident, Molly Pickett noted, “It will completely change the feeling and flavor of our neighborhood. It seems totally contradictory in what we come to Chappaquiddick for.”

AT&T was the only company to respond to a Request for Proposal for a wireless antenna, issued by the Chappaquiddick Wireless Committee in 2015. If this deal is approved, AT&T hopes to have the permanent structure built by May 2018, when the temporary tower will come down, regardless of the decision to install a permanent tower, according to Brian Grossman, an attorney with Cambridge-based Anderson & Kreiger, which represents AT&T. A public hearing is scheduled for November 2.

October 12, 2017               

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