PINEDALE – The Pinedale Town Council has tabled for now a high-speed wireless Internet provider’s request to build a tower higher than city code allows, choosing to wait for a study that will pinpoint the best locations for towers.
The council’s action at its Monday, Sept. 25, meeting came after the Pinedale Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended on Sept. 20 that the town approve a temporary variance for LR Communications. The variance would have allowed the company to do as it wishes and build an 80-foot tower at 99 West Mill Street, where the town’s code allows only a 35-foot tower. But the recommendation was also that LR Communications would have one year after a new tower in an ideal location is built to move the company’s equipment to that new location. Then the company would have to take down the 80-foot tower.
Town council members Tyler Swafford and Nylla Kunard didn’t go for that proposal, noting that the council has already authorized a “propagation study,” now nearly complete, that is supposed to point out the best locations for towers serving Pinedale.
“The propagation study, to me, matters in this whole decision-making process,” Swafford said.
LR Communications CEO Lance Laughter said an issue for the company is that if it doesn’t get the foundation of the tower in place this fall, construction will have to wait until next year. Laughter also noted that building the tower will cost the company about $62,000, and removing the above-ground structure would cost about $10,000. That doesn’t include the labor costs of redirecting its Internet customers’ hardware so they can be served by the new location, Laughter said.
Laughter also argued that for his business, the location he’s chosen on West Mill Street – a block off Pine and just behind the China Gourmet Family Restaurant – is the best way to reach customers whom the company can’t serve now because of issues such as obstructions that block signals. Laughter leases access to fiber from CenturyLink, connects fiber to his towers and uses wireless technology to handle his customers communications to and from the towers.
Laughter made the same point in a Sept. 21 email to each member of the town council, and which he also forwarded to the Pinedale Roundup.
“We started providing service in Sublette County in the fall of 2014, expanded to Pinedale in 2015 and we’ve been looking at the challenges of coverage for a long time,” he wrote. “From all of those perspectives our proposed location is optimal for us. Now other carriers may have different opinions with their own subset of coverage data, but it is not my job to take that into account and it is not your jobs to try and level the playing field. Everyone benefits from competition and the consumer most of all.”
Mayor Bob Jones and council member Matt Murdock – both at the meeting and in an impromptu conference next day which they allowed the Pinedale Roundup to attend – assured Laughter that they want him to go on serving Pinedale. They emphasized the need to keep the aesthetics of the town skyline while allowing telecommunications companies to co-locate on towers that the upcoming study will designate. And they emphasized that the city doesn’t want to be in the business of managing towers and wouldn’t necessarily build them, either, if it can find a private company that wants to do it. Neither does the city want to favor one Internet provider over others, they said.
Murdock and Jones said the tower study might even suggest a location close to where LR Communications wants to build, and the council urged him to wait until the study is done.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the town council: