Carriers to Build Temporary Cell Tower

Reading, MA — By a vote of 5-0, the Select Board authorized Town Manager Robert LeLacheur to issue an RFP (request for proposal) for a lease to construct a temporary monopole cell tower at the Auburn Street water tower site for use by cell phone carriers and by town emergency communications equipment. The agreement is that the 140-foot tower will be erected and maintained at the expense of the carriers. 

Attorney Edward Pare, counsel for AT&T, explained that this configuration would allow uninterrupted cell coverage for the town and the hundreds of thousands of users that utilize the antennas on the site, which help provide cell coverage for parts of Interstate 93. AT&T investigated other placement sites and options but found none that would allow uninterrupted service to continue.

According to Pare, the tower itself is designed to be temporary. It will have a steel and ballast base which only has a twenty-foot by twenty-foot footprint and is less disruptive than the town’s plan to construct a temporary tower for its use. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have agreed to share the costs of the tower construction.

“It can be put up in days and removed in days.” Pare declared. 

The tower will be removed once equipment has been transferred to the new water tower. “The proposal is exactly what we are looking for.” Select Board member Vanessa Alvarado remarked.

Both Pare and T-Mobile counsel Adam Braillard gave presentations regarding how coverage would be affected if the cell antennas were not present; the lost coverage area would include most of Reading’s downtown, encompassing thousands of homes and businesses. “We hope to avoid a significant and catastrophic loss of coverage,” Pare concluded.

The Auburn Street water tower replacement project is still under Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) review. CPDC will take up the project again at its April 12 meeting.

The Select Board also voted to adopt a proclamation recognizing April 30 as Arbor Day in Reading. This will continue Reading’s thirty-year history designated as a “Tree City.” The board voted to send a letter to the governor opposing the scaling back of service in the MBTA’s “Forging Ahead” plan. It approved a biomass policy recommendation presented by the Climate Advisory Committee. This policy discourages using woody biomass as energy fuel by the Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD). David Zeek, chair of the Climate Advisory committee, shared that woody biomass fuel creates even more greenhouse gas than fossil fuels, though it is renewable. RMLD has already signed an agreement to use energy from a yet-to-be-built biomass plant in Springfield, though whether the plant will be built is in question. Since then, RMLD has determined that it does not recognize woody biomass fuel as a clean energy source. The votes on all three items were 5-0.

The Board voted 5-0 to amend the Fiscal Year 2021 classification chart to add a health director as a department head and a “Grade L” employee. Funding for the position beyond FY 2021 is contingent on Town Meeting’s approval of the FY 2022 budget. The amendment to the classification was done at this time to allow for a hiring process to begin. LeLacheur informed the board that the process would not be complete before Town Meeting in April and could be dropped if Town Meeting does not approve the funding.

The meeting began with an hour-long executive session regarding civil court and administrative actions involving 59 Middlesex Avenue and the possible purchase of that property. LeLacheur reported to the board that there are continuing conversations regarding relocating the Department of Public Works garage to Camp Curtis Guild. The next action item will be a drone flight of the area and an environmental analysis of the twelve-acre site to determine its suitability for the facility as there are wetlands nearby. The Board also held the annual appointment and voted 5-0 to reappoint Sharon Angstrom as Town Accountant. 

The Select Board Adjourned at 11:25 pm.

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