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Council Minutes March 1, 2010

PRESENT:        Chairman Perkins, Councilor Hathaway, Councilor Friedman, Councilor King, Councilor Parker, Manager W. Reed, Deputy Clerk K. Humphrey, Office Administrator J. Reed, Parks & Recreation Director R. Young, Police Chief M. Leonard, Public Works Superintendent B. Free, Assessor/CEO A. Thomas, Fire Chief G. Martin, Asst. Fire Chief C. Tenney, Members of the Fire Department, Members of the Public.
                
ITEM 1. The March 1, 2010 Veazie Town Council meeting was called to order at 7:00PM.

ITEM 2. Consideration of the Minutes
Motion By:  Councilor Friedman —to accept the February 16, 2010 meeting minutes as written.  Seconded:  Councilor Hathaway, Voted 5-0 in favor.
                                
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda
There were no additions to the agenda.  

ITEM 4a.        Public Hearing – Moratorium on Communication Towers
Motion By:  Councilor King—to open the public hearing to receive comments and written submissions on the proposed Moratorium Ordinance on Communication Towers.  Seconded:  Councilor Hathaway, Voted 5-0 in favor.  

Chairman Perkins stated he would like to outline the ground rules for the public hearing.  The purpose of the public hearing is to discuss specific inadequacies on communications towers that may have been indentified including construction standards, siting and locational requirements, development standards, performance standards and safety standards which would ensure that such towers are placed in locations where they will be compatible with neighboring land uses.

Chairman Perkins added that the discussions should not revolve around a particular project but communication towers in general.  He reminded everyone that the Council will not be making a decision at this meeting on a specific project but on a moratorium.  He asked that individuals approach the podium when recognized to speak and clearly state their name and address.

Chairman Perkins stated that they will hear from the group that represents the State of Maine first then take comments from the community.   
    
Greg McNeal introduced himself as the Chief Technology Officer for the State of         Maine.  He outlined that they are requesting that the Town either not approve the moratorium or not back date the moratorium to February 17th so the permit can proceed to the Planning Board for consideration under the current ordinance.  

Mr. McNeal outlined that the Maine State Communications Network was started in 2005.  At that time the State initiated an effort to consolidate five separate public safety communications infrastructures into one and put it under the jurisdiction/responsibility of the Office of Information Technology.  In the wake of recent catastrophic events like the attack of 9-11 and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina it became crystal clear that communications and interoperability amongst first responders is absolutely critical.  

Mr. McNeal outlined that to ensure the State of Maine is prepared in the event of catastrophic event like the Ice Storm of 1998, as well as the daily emergency communications needs of police, fire, and rescue, the Office of Information Technology has been charged to rebuild/redesign and operate the infrastructure to meet the Public Safety Communication needs of state entities including the Departments of Public Safety, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Conservation, Marine Resources and Corrections.  

Mr. McNeal stated that they are proposing to build a state of the art self supporting public safety communications tower on the location known as Buck Hill.  The tower will be 180 feet tall and will allow space on the tower for growth as well as allowing local communities the opportunity to affordably co-locate their communications equipment.  There will also be a twelve by twelve foot building on the site to house all communications equipment as well as a back-up generator.  The site will be secured with an eight foot chain link fence and secured gate.  

Mr. McNeal stated that they have flown balloons at the height of the tower to see where it could be seen.  He outlined that in order to see the balloons even with the leaves off the tree they had to significantly enhance the photos.  They plan on doing another balloon simulation with larger and higher balloons in order to more clearly show the height of the tower as seen from a distance.  

Mr. NcNeal outlined that they have signed a lease with the Orono-Veazie Water District, have put a deposit down with Bangor Hydro Electric to run power to the site and have submitted their permit application to the Town.  

Mr. NcNeal stated that he realizes that the Town has already make up its mind about the location of the tower, however, he hoped they could have a constructive conversation, provide additional information and answer any questions the Town may have.                

Shawn Romanoski gave a brief history of the project.  The original proposal was to implement an 800-Mhz communications system costing well over $200 million.  This scenario would have required more than 300 towers, greatly increasing not only cost of implementation but also operations costs.  

In 2004 the State chose a more affordable approach based on VHF radio communications that would limit spacing to approximately 30 miles between tower locations.  The longer the distance, the greater probability of obstructions, so a standardized height was selected of 180 feet tall.  This height is below the FAA’s requirement for a lighted tower (200 feet and taller) and it gives the necessary clearance to maintain the reliability required for a carrier class microwave system.  Mr. Romanoski outlined that they then considered how much VHF Radio coverage each location could provide.  The higher the elevation the more land area can be covered from any one tower location.    

Tom Driscoll discussed how he and Craig Hitchings flew the balloons over Buck Hill.  He took pictures by Qualey Granite on State Street, the Kelly Road overpass and from the driveway of 1116 Buck Hill Drive.  Mr. Driscoll outlined that he expected to see it the most from the Buck Hill residence however it was hard to locate the balloons.  After enhancing the photos they could be seen in the trees with leaves down and this was at a height of 160 feet and 235 feet.  The wind was blowing that day so they will be flying the balloons one more time to make sure their findings are accurate.  
                
Project Office Manager, Craig Hitchings gave a brief chronology including the efforts and costs the State has expended to date on the Buck Hill location.  
                
April 2007 – contacted Water District to discuss sites and had initial contact with the Town of Veazie

August 2007 – Buck Hill identified as potential radio site

February 2008 – Initial site survey of Buck Hill done at a cost of $5,000
        
October 2008 – Title work for property completed at a cost of $4,045

October 2009 – Signed lease with Orono-Veazie Water District

November 2009 – Signed power line construction contract with Bangor Hydro and paid deposit of $3,530

December 2009 – Final property survey site at a cost of $1,100

January 2010 – Contractor preliminary site design and zoning drawings at a cost of $10,000

February 2010 – Met with Veazie Town Council at Town’s request.  
Committed to developing input for Town newsletter, preparing photo simulations of the tower site and attending an informational public meeting to be announced at a future date.                        
Submitted building permit and paid fee of $2,300

The total cost to date expended is $25,975 and that does not include the cost of staff on the project.   He stated that they are requesting that the Town not approve the moratorium or backdate the moratorium to February 17th so the permit can proceed to the Planning Board for consideration under the current ordinance

Member of the Public Robert Rice stated that he supports a moratorium that would allow the Town time to develop an ordinance that defines the parameters for tower placement, for size and for demonstrated need.  

Mr. Rice sited cases and studies regarding health effects.  He noted that the power requirements of the proposed tower is low however other agencies will be using the tower and the potential for human health affects in the residential area may go up.  He added that they however cannot site that is a reason and the Town cannot site that as a reason for not approving the tower.

There are over 100,000 towers currently in the United States and 13 are within a four miles radius of Buck Hill.  Mr. Rice mentioned a meeting of public safety officials in Orono back in October 2009 where dead spots were talked about.  He outlined that there will always be dead spots and if you are under a tower you are likely to have additional dead spots.  
                
Mr. Rice gave a chronological outline of the events that transpired with the Town regarding the proposed tower.  He cited incidents in other parts of the United States where residents had not been notified of a tower being constructed until it was being constructed or had already been constructed.  

He urged the Town Council to put the legal moratorium into effect and expeditiously update the Town’s ordinance so that the Town can tell the State where the tower can be placed in the community.  

Jonathan Foster outlined that he moved to Buck Hill Drive last year and this tower may or may not had any bearing on whether he bought his house but it was something that they would have liked to know.  He added that where so many people didn’t know about this project moving forward it seems like that in and of itself is enough reason to take six months and consider changing the ordinance.  He urged the Town Council to compartmentalize the presentation they have heard from the State from the actual question that is being considered at this meeting.

Motion By:  Councilor Friedman to close public hearing.  Seconded:  Councilor King.  Voted 5-0 in favor.

ITEM 4b Consideration  of Acceptance of Moratorium Ordinance
Motion By:  Councilor Friedman – The Veazie Town Council, pursuant to 30-A MRSA 3001, 30-A MRSA 4356 and the Veazie Town Charter, hereby adopt a moratorium for 180 days on the issuance of any permits, licenses, or approvals for the placement, erection or construction of any communications tower within the Town of Veazie because the present Land Use Ordinance is inadequate to protect the public health, safety and welfare and where the Town Council finds that the forging facts create a necessity within the meaning of 30A MRSA 4356 (1)(B).  Specific inadequacies that have been identified are: construction standards, siting and locational requirements, development standards, performance standards and safety standards which would ensure that such towers are placed in locations where they will be compatible with neighboring land uses.  Seconded:  Councilor Hathaway, Voted 5-0 in favor.  
 
ITEM 5a.        Purchasing Policy
Motion By:  Councilor King—to approve the Purchasing Policy dated March 1, 2010 version 1e as submitted and to have the Town Manager implement the enactment as of March 2, 2010. Seconded: Councilor Hathaway, Voted 5-0 in favor.             

ITEM 6. Comments from the Public
Member of the Public Joe Distefano outlined that a lease was executed without anyone knowing and wanted to know how the Town could prevent this from happening again.  Manager Reed outlined that if it had been the Town’s land the Town would have been required to notify residents, however he will have to ask the Town Attorney about quasi-municipal agencies such as the water district and their requirements.  

Member of the Public Mia Fowler outlined that the State had said they had been working with the Town since April 2007.  It was clarified that the State contacted the Town in April 2007 for a copy of their land use ordinance.  CEO Allan Thomas stated that in late 2009 he was contacted and informed that Buck Hill had been selected as a site for the communications tower.  

Fire Chief Gerry Martin outlined that the Fire Department has had communication problems for years.  They have changed pagers and radios over the last few years and had even looked into erecting their own 100 foot tower but still continue to have issues.  The department recently had a fire on Buck Hill Drive and the firefighter in the basement was unable to communicate with the firefighters out at the engine.  Fire Chief Martin wanted to reiterate that there is a communication issue and something needs to be done.   

Member of the Public Louis Hardy inquired on how many towers were being erected and if any were this close to a neighborhood and if so are they having  similar problems        

Shawn Romanoski stated that there will be 34 towers in the new system and 23 of those will be constructed new.  The most similar instance was in Hallowell where the tower will be within 210 feet of several houses, however after providing information on the tower it was allowed to proceed.  

Member of the Public Tom Drummond commended the State for trying to improve communications.  He inquired on how many other sites were looked at in this area.  Mr. Drummond also mentioned that he continues to hear that power levels are fairly safe and wondered how they will control safety when he has heard that there could be multiple users on the tower.  He outlined that he hoped that this forum had allowed the State to see the concern the public has and perhaps maybe choose another site.  
                
Shawn Romanoski stated that they have looked at other sites including a site on the Kelly Road and a site across the river in Eddington, however in looking at microwave paths neither site looked promising.  

Mr. Romanoski also outlined that the only users on the tower besides the State would be public safety including fire, police, county and possibly federal agencies.  All agencies are all very low powered users and typically if you are within three feet of the tower you will be safe.  

Mr. Romanoski outlined that the entire panel consists of residents of Maine and they appreciate what the residents are going through.  He apologized that the residents were not notified sooner.  He reiterated that in April 2007 when they touched base with the Town it was only for the Town’s land use ordinance, at that time they were not sure they were going to put a tower on Buck Hill.

ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
The Town Council reviewed a copy of the combined draft budget worksheet.
The Town Council reviewed a copy of a report on outstanding real estate taxes.
The Town Council reviewed a copy of the 2010 Federal Issues Paper.
The Town Council reviewed a copy of the State’s Green Economy report.

ITEM 8. Requests for Information and Town Council Comments
Councilor Hathaway stated that he supports a moratorium.  It will allow the Town to study the tower issue in general.  He added that a remote hill hasn’t just been selected to locate this tower but an area that contains some of the Town’s most expensive property.  Veazie remains one of the most densely populated communities in the State of Maine and it enjoys its rural characteristics.  While Councilor Hathaway does support the State’s efforts to upgrade public safety communications he does have concerns when it locates it within this community in an area that has an active and ongoing subdivision.  That area has been studied and laid out for future subdivision activity and he doesn’t see how uses like this are compatible with an ongoing active subdivision.  Councilor Hathaway stated that he looks forward to listening to more concerns and comments and the Planning Board studying the issue.  

ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 18 and Town Payroll 18 were circulated for signature.  
        
ITEM 10.        Adjournment: Motion: Councilor King —to adjourn the March 1, 2010 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Friedman—there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned 8:05pm.


A true record, Attest:

Karen Humphrey
Deputy Clerk
Town of Veazie


 

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