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Residents disagree about 78-foot cell phone tower

Tall monopine needed for greater coverage, engineer says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Proponents and opponents of a 78-foot monopine AT&T cell phone tower spoke their minds about the proposed project Wednesday night. AT&T hosted a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Rose Room at City Hall. The forum was set up so that residents could walk through four different stations. The stations included information on what the cell tower would look like, why it is needed, what it will do, how it will affect property values, how wireless works and the particulars of radio frequency emissions. Approximately 12 residents attended the meeting. Brook Road resident Robert Littlejohn said he agrees with the project and thinks it’s less obtrusive than utility features that already exist. “I think it’s long overdue,” Littlejohn said. “It’s nominal compared to the electric lines.” Brook Road resident Dennis Durham said he thinks wider cell phone coverage is definitely needed. “We have lived here for 50 years … and ever since they have had cell phones we can’t get any signals out there,” Durham said. “Most neighbors have to walk outside their house and walk 10 feet to the side (to get a signal). We have been praying for this day, because it will help us communicate better.” Les Nederveld, of the Lyle Company, who is working with AT&T on the project, said the tower isn’t just for direct coverage in Auburn. “The site on Borland is very important,” Nederveld said. “It serves not only the residents here locally, but it will serve the residents who travel up and down I-80.” Nederveld explained how wireless signals work, saying they communicate from antennae to antennae and that hills and mountains can block signals, and valleys can constrain them. Son Bui, AT&T radio frequency design engineer, said the existing cell tower off Mount Vernon Road is not enough to provide AT&T with the coverage it needs in Downtown Auburn, in the American River Canyon and up through Robie Drive. Borland Avenue resident Danusia Szumowski, who is opposed to the project, said she thought AT&T had other options than to build the Borland Avenue tower. “To get the coverage here you could have two (shorter) cell sites, and you have chosen one tall one,” Szumowski said. Bui said all options for the needed coverage were considered before the company took its plan to the city. “Radio frequencies are based on line of sight,” Bui said. “The higher you are the bigger area you are going to cover. The main thing too is we are trying to cover more of Downtown.” Gary Clark, who owns the automobile service company Renn Tech on Borland Avenue, said he and neighbor O.C. Taylor have talked with a local cell tower contractor. “We met up with a fellow who, for the last 20 years, has found sites for cell towers,” Clark said. “He explained to us that cell tower could be put 40 feet down in the canyon and achieve the same service it (would on Borland).” Lane Kasselman, spokesman for AT&T, said that was not true. “It’s kind of hearsay,” Kasselman said. “We determine our cell sites based on science and engineering, not hearsay.” Clark and Szumowski were unable to give the Journal the name of the contractor they spoke to. Szumowski said the man is afraid getting involved in the issue would hurt his business. Dylan Clark, Gary Clark’s son, who said he always gets coverage when cycling in the canyon, said he thinks the tower goes against Auburn’s goal of being a beautiful city. “Borland is not that beautiful of a street, but I think it kind of contradicts what the town is saying about itself,” Dylan Clark said. Szumowski said the meeting did not satisfy her. “They are not addressing the question, which is why can’t you do this in the least invasive way?” she asked. Auburn resident Bill Boyce said he was happy with the meeting and the idea of the cell tower. “We are absolutely and totally in favor of it, because we live in an area where we have absolutely no coverage,” Boyce said. Nederveld said he expects the tower to go before Auburn City Council again March 28. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com