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News Feature

Sedgwick
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 5, 2012
Caterpillar Hill tower to go up soon

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by Jonathan Thomas

A 195-foot communications tower will be soon erected on top of Caterpillar Hill. The concrete foundation will likely be poured in early January.

Almost exactly a year earlier, on January 11, 2011, the Sedgwick Planning Board voted, with conditions, to approve a permit for Centerline Communications LLC to build the tower on land owned Gordon Gianninoto at the upper end of Bayview Avenue. Then, Centerline’s representative, Andrew Thompson, told the board that construction would not begin until the company had a contract with a cell phone carrier to use the tower. At this time no cell phone company has contracted for space on one of the estimated six antenna spaces available on the tower.

However, as a result of contact originated by Gianninoto, the U.S. Coast Guard has contracted for tower space under its “Rescue 21” program, part of the National Distress and Response System.

With that contract in place, the planning board issued a permit at its October 11 meeting. Permit conditions included antenna space on the tower at no cost for the town’s fire department; a promise to notify the town when additional users are to be added to the tower; and a $20,000 bond to cover the cost of removal if the tower were abandoned.

However, excavation and blasting work began at the site in late November without town notification or any bond documents. According to meeting minutes, Code Enforcement Officer Duane Ford reported this to the Sedgwick selectmen, who voted 3-0 on December 1 for him to “do what he felt was necessary.”

As Ford later explained to the planning board at its December 13 meeting, he was reluctant to issue a stop work order but did obtain a bond document. Ford said he felt the bond’s wording was not specific enough to protect the town’s interest in coming years. Following a lengthy discussion at that meeting, planning board members decided to refer the issue of the bond to the selectmen.

At their December 15 meeting, the Sedgwick selectmen discussed the tower removal bond, but decided to take no action.

In a phone interview on December 19, property owner Gianninoto said he would take responsibility for the tower if Centerline abandoned it. He also said that an official at Centerline told him the company would modify the wording of the bond to meet the needs of the town, upon request. Ford later said he would be contacting the company regarding possible changes.

Unlike other towns in the area, Sedgwick does not have an specific ordinance for communications towers. Ford told the planning board on December 13 that the permitting and enforcement problems with this tower have demonstrated the inadequacy of the site plan review ordinance for dealing with towers. Copies of Blue Hill’s recently enacted communications tower ordinance were distributed and will be discussed at the planning board’s January meeting.

The new 195-foot tower will be a “slip-sleeve,” 18-sided, self-supporting monopole tower, with a three-foot base, tapering to between 18 and 26 inches at the top. Other towers recently built in the area have an open lattice design, rising from a large triangular base. Gianninoto said that the slip-sleeve tower is longer lasting and does not need the annual bolt tightening needed on a lattice tower.

Because its height is less than 200 feet, the new tower is exempt from F.A.A. lighting requirements.