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Council approves AT&T monopine

Property owner says competitive service a must
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn can expect to see a new monopine cell phone tower in the near future. In a unanimous vote Monday night the Auburn City Council approved a height variance for the 78-foot AT&T tower to be constructed at 169 Borland Ave. That part of Borland is currently zoned for industrial use. Several local residents spoke out Monday in favor and against the monopine, which is a cell phone tower constructed to look like a tree. Councilman Keith Nesbitt said he felt AT&T made some thorough studies of several other potential sites for the tower. Nesbitt said although he felt the tower would always “stick out” in terms of aesthetics, he wouldn’t have minded it being moved to 155 Borland Ave. and lowered to 65 feet. Tim Ray, executive director of external affairs for AT&T, said 155 Borland wasn’t unacceptable to AT&T, but a 65-foot tower would only allow for a single company’s antenna. Ray said the 78-foot monopine could house an AT&T antennae as well as that of two other carriers. Ray said 7,500 Auburn users would benefit from the tower. O.C. Taylor, who was appealing the Auburn Planning Commission’s approval of the height variance, listed a number of large corporations, comparing them to AT&T. “All these corporations seem to take precedence over people in the city of Auburn,” Taylor said to the council. “Those people are the people who vote for you people.” Taylor asked if the project was already a done deal. “Did anybody say, ‘I wonder how the former councilman and mayor likes it right by his window?’” Taylor asked. Toward the end of the meeting, Mayor Bill Kirby took a poll of the audience to see how many were for and how many were against the project. More raised their hands in support of the monopine. AT&T provided supporters with stickers that said, “Yes for AT&T.” Auburn resident Valaine Hoffman said her AT&T Blackberry cell phone allowed her to continue to work when she was bedridden, and she welcomes the tower. “My phone has made me productive sometimes, depending on where I am in Auburn,” Hoffman said. “I never thought I would be up here today begging you to bring us into the 21st century.” Hoffman said she resents paying a full cell phone bill when she doesn’t get full coverage. Meadow Vista resident Gordon Ainsleigh, member of the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District board of directors, said he thought AT&T could learn from another company. “This is an issue where every other cell company has put up their tower … and they have done it without upsetting any neighbors,” Ainsleigh said. “AT&T needs to take some lessons from Verizon and do it the way Verizon does.” Gary Mapa, who said he owns two properties in Auburn but doesn’t live in the city, encouraged the council to approve the project, because he thought AT&T had addressed city staff concerns. Mapa said he thought AT&T should have a chance to offer the same service as other cell phone companies. “I think there is a definite need to offer competitive service,” Mapa said. Mapa said he would consider switching from Verizon to another company, but he doesn’t think any other companies offer him equal coverage. Lane Kasselman, spokesman for AT&T, said construction on the tower is scheduled to begin within three weeks and two months. “We are looking forward to bringing wireless broadband and improved cell coverage to the community,” Kasselman said. For more on Monday’s meeting, see Wednesday’s edition of the Journal. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com