Pocahontas commissioners support proposed cell tower on Droop
Increased access to cell service could be coming to Pocahontas county. The Pocahontas county commission heard a presentation from American Towers Corporation (ATC) at their meeting June 17th on plans to build a 256-foot cell tower atop Droop Mountain. The proposed location is approximately 1,800 feet south of the south entrance to Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and 200 feet west of US Route 219.
In their application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ATC said that Federal Aviation Administration Style E lighting would be installed on the tower. Style E lighting includes a dual white and red flashing strobe light on top of the tower and three red marker lights on the side of the tower.
Public comment voiced during the meeting concerning the tower was mostly in favor of the proposal. Four Droop Mountain residents, including tower site owner Wilbur Walton, spoke in favor of the project.
Droop Mountain resident Susan Kershner spoke against the proposal, telling commissioners that the tower would ruin the viewshed from her home and from the nearby state park. She said she’s not against cell service, and knows that the county needs it. But she said she didn’t think that someone going to the observation tower at Droop Park to look at the scenery should also have to look at a cell tower. She’s also concerned about how the tower might affect her property values.
Burns Motor Freight president Fred Burns, Jr. spoke in favor of the project, saying the increased communications would be a boon to his business. He pointed out that his trucks have collision avoidance, lane departure, rollover protection and other safety technology available, but Pocahontas County is one of the few counties that his drivers have not been able to take full advantage of those safety measures. He also said that if the county is to grow, communications is essential.
Hillsboro resident Beth Little, in a letter to the commission, urged them to consider multiple, shorter towers that would not require flashing lights. She also wrote to the FCC, pointing out that there are smaller towers in nearly towns that are providing adequate service without the need for flashing strobe lighting.
The commissioners were unanimous in their support for the tower proposal.
Because Pocahontas county is at the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, any cell company wishing to put equipment on the tower would have to coordinate with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to ensure it would not cause interference with the radio telescopes. Commissioner David Fleming said the NRAO had received an application for operation of the cell tower from ATC.
Droop Mountain Battlefield is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is currently reviewing the project and its impact on the Civil War battlefield. The commissioners agreed to send a letter to the preservation office , stating their support for the cell tower project.
In other business, Rachel Taylor, vice-president of Northern Pocahontas Wellness (NPW), requested a contribution of $10,000 for a planned fitness facility with indoor pool in Green Bank. The group, which has applied for 501c(3) non-profit status, currently operates a small fitness center in an annex building at Green Bank Elementary/Middle School.
Taylor said that there is a great deal of interest for the pool, which would be the only public pool in the county that would open all year round, and able to offer services such as lap swimming, water aerobics and physical therapy services.
Taylor said the NRAO had donated two acres of land near the school for the project. She said a contribution from the commission would help pay for architectural plans, site preparation and land clearing. NPW has partnered with Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation for receipt of funds until it obtains 501c(3) status.
Commissioners praised the work that NPW has done in recent years and voted 2-1 to approve a $10,000 contribution, directly to NPW, pending the group’s 501c(3) approval. Fleming objected because he preferred making the contribution through Parks and Recreation.
Other actions taken by the commission Tuesday include:
– Approved a $2,000 contribution for the Northern Pocahontas Food Pantry;
– Appointed Leslie Cain to the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals Board;
– Appointed Paul Marganian to the Free Libraries Board;
– Agreed to have East Fork Industrial Site coordinator John Simmons get an estimate on demolition and filling of above-ground tanks at the site;
– Approved a $33,000 funding request from the Board of Health; and
– Took no action on a $10,000 contribution request from the Farmer’s Market for a pavilion in Linwood.
Our thanks to Geoff Hamill of the Pocahontas Times newspaper for the information in this report.