Town Council approves extension of cell-on-wheels permit

Cali O'Hare file photo

PINEDALE – The Pinedale Town Council unanimously approved a permit submitted by Union Wireless to extend operation of a cell-on-wheels (COW) tower inside town limits for a third year on Monday, Oct. 24.

Councilmembers tabled Union’s initial application at their Oct. 10 meeting, expressing frustration with the company’s inability to replace the COW with a permanent macrocell communications tower within the two-year timeframe.

A COW is permitted by town code on commercially zoned property on a temporary basis for up to one year, Abram Pearce, director of public works, told the council on Oct. 10. The structure is not intended to be permanent.

On Oct. 10, the council directed Union to meet with town staff and return with a strengthened agreement containing a strict schedule and conditions to ensure the completion of a permanent tower and removal of the COW.

Pearce was “comfortable” with the beefed-up permit application presented to the council on Oct. 24. The new document contained a timeline with milestones Union is required to meet with room for the company to apply for licenses through the Federal Communications Commission, Pearce added.

The Oct. 24 COW permit compels Union to maintain communication with the Town of Pinedale to ensure each condition is met and that the company is progressing toward a permanent macrocell tower, Pearce said.

The updated permit application contains the necessary “teeth” to “keep (Union) on task,” Pearce told the board.

The document provides the town with the option to “annul” the permit if Union does not meet the timeline and conditions. Voiding the permit would have repercussions for Unions subscribers, Pearce said.

Tyler Tholl, representing Union, stated he was relatively new to the project and realized the previous permit to operate a COW in Pinedale was up for expiration at the “11th hour.” Tholl understood the town granted Union’s first extension request with hesitation. The company was at the town council’s “mercy” in granting a second extension for the COW, he added.

Union intended to follow the timeline and conditions in the permit application, including the installation of a fence around the COW to conceal the structure, Tholl said.

Mayor Matt Murdock cautioned Union to adhere to town code regarding towers and antenna installations during the process to build a permanent communications tower. The town spent time and money drafting “clear ordinances” related to towers, consulting with an attorney specializing in communications during the process, he explained.

Murdock asked Union to respect town staff’s time by doing everything in its power to follow town code in selecting a strategic site for its tower and avoid any redundancies with a macrocell tower the town was putting out to bid that would provide wi-fi access as well.

Improving connectivity and access to broadband are important goals for the town, Murdock told Union. He called the COW a “thorn in our side” and said the town granted Union’s first request to extend its COW’s operations “grudgingly.”

The town was willing to extend the permit for a COW a second time to ensure services for Pinedale residents were not interrupted as long as Union followed the town’s conditions, Murdock stated.

In other town news

• Town staff continue to work with consultants in collecting data for Pinedale’s transportation, pedestrian safety, wastewater, airport and sewer master plans, Pearce told the council.

Pearce hoped to have results from public input on the Transportation Master Plan, along with some of the data from the traffic counts and traffic analyses carried out by Jorgensens on existing and forecasted traffic conditions by the town's Dec. 12 meeting.

• The council approved a professional services agreement with Biota Research and Consulting to partner with a local firm, Teletractors, Inc., to reexamine Biota’s 2014-2015 proposals for restoration projects along Pine Creek.

Councilwoman Judi Boyce stressed the need for participation from landowners along Pine Creek during the process.

Mayor Murdock explained the town’s consultants were only carrying out preliminary steps to create a “menu” of shovel-ready projects to present to the public.

• Murdock and the council welcomed Riley Wilson as the new airport manager. Wilson came with an “amazing reputation” as a crew leader in the town’s parks department and brings “a lot of energy” to the table, Murdock said.

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