05-11-2010 Public Hearing

Dayton Planning Board

Public Hearing

May 11, 2010

US Cellular: Tardiff Lane Cell Tower


Members Present: Remi Caron (Chair), Dan Plourde, Dick Hall, Valerie Cole (Alt.)


Others Present: Jim Roberts (CEO), Roger Bowers, Mark and Diane Malm, Richard Tardiff, Giselle Tardiff, Bob Gashlin (US Cellular), Tammy Pisani, Donna Gonneville, Kelly Stone, Tom Gonneville (See attached list)


The public hearing started at 7 PM. The purpose was to review and solicit response to US Cellular’s requests:

1. Install a 3-foot microwave antenna on the Tardiff Lane cell tower

2. Lift the condition on the original CUP that prohibits microwave antennas on that tower


Mr. Gashlin presented his proposal on behalf of US Cellular. His request initially was to lift the microwave dish restriction, as the zoning team made an error when setting up the tower. The tower works on a limited basis and provides decent service, but being unable to install a microwave dish limits US Cellular’s ability to use it in a network sense. Towers do not work unless they are connected to the main switch, which is located far away; he does not know where the nearest switch is. Each site has to be hardwired into the main switch with T1 fiber. This site is hardwired but some neighboring sites don't have the fiber so microwave dishes are needed to assist in sending the signal to the main switch. There is a new Saco tower site but contractors can't get fiber to it yet. The solution is to put up a microwave dish on the Saco site and shoot a beam to a dish on the Dayton site, which then translates it to the fiber and routes it to the main switch. US Cellular does not like to use microwave dishes because the signal quality isn’t as good, and they are expensive. They anticipate using one here on a temporary basis. They would like to have the restriction lifted because they want to be able to use their assets and would like to do so by asking for a building permit as opposed to going through the public hearing process each time.


Mr. Gashlin addressed the concern of the aesthetics, explaining that the dish’s size is relative to the distance the signal must be sent. A 36-inch wide dish is typical and is what is proposed here. On this monopole tower, the base is approximately 60 inches wide and the top of the pole is 18 inches. A 36-inch dish would probably be located at 158 feet and that spot would likely be 36 inches wide. By comparison, the arrays on the top of the tower are 12 feet.


Another concern Mr. Gashlin addressed is the health effects. He explained that antennas do provide some emissions, which are governed by the FCC. He reported that he had asked a radio frequency (RF) engineer to give some specs on the emissions, and this antenna will emit 0.02% of the maximum emissions allowed by the FCC. The dish is more focused at 3.8 degrees than the broad-based arrays on the tower now; the microwaves send a direct beam from one site to another so there will be no emissions in other directions.


Mr. Malm noted that US Cellular has submitted a new CUP application, which requires the old CUP to be set aside. He requested that an independent study be done on the equipment there now, as the study on file is from US Cellular engineers six years ago, and that on both town towers microwave dishes are prohibited. He noted people don't do what is expected but what is inspected.


Valerie Cole said she had asked Mike Polakewich why microwave dishes were prohibited on his tower, and he replied that he had accepted that restriction because his tower had plenty of T1 capability.


Mr. Malm asked why there isn't enough T1 capability on the Tardiff Lane tower. He expressed concern that there would be more dishes added on this tower to reach other towers.


Mr. Gashlin explained that towers are regulated by the FCC: and they determine the emissions levels and police them, because they know this will come up as local concerns. This tower is policed by the FCC.


Mr. Malm asked if US Cellular would object to an independent study being conducted. Mr. Gashlin said he would object because his RF engineer indicated the emissions would be 0.02% of the maximum level. He felt that there is no need to have a study done.


Mrs. Malm pointed out that no one knows how long it takes for potential health problems to take effect. She is worried about possible increases in cancer rates and the fact that there are 17 children in the area. Mr. Gashlin explained that is why the FCC sets limits. The 1996 Telecommunications Act says that municipalities cannot deny towers based on health concerns. He reiterated that the emissions are less than 1% and repeated that he does not feel it necessary to do independent studies because it is such a low emission level. Mr. Malm said that he would like someone to test around the neighborhood and is concerned that Mr. Gashlin does not want to do so. Mr. Gashlin noted for the record that the numbers are not cooked up.


Mrs. Malm questioned why it is a temporary dish and expressed concerns that it would become permanent. Mr. Gashlin explained that the application is for temporary installation but there may be a need again in the future. He noted that US Cellular needs this site for the entire network; they need to be able to use their assets. Mrs. Malm asked for clarification of the temporary status. Mr. Gashlin explained that the dish was needed to reach a specific site and he anticipates taking it down in 18 months. The objective isn't to leave it there.


Mrs. Malm asked about benefits for the neighborhood. Mr. Gashlin reported that 30% of emergency calls in 2008 came by cell phone. They work when electrical power is lost. Many homes now have only cell phones, no land lines. People use them and want them. Mrs. Malm pointed out that some states are trying to pass laws warning people of the possible health dangers of cell phone use. Mr. Gashlin said out again that there is usefulness for cell phones as well as a safety benefit.


Mrs. Pisani pointed out that many years ago smoking was popular; now we know it is detrimental to health. Mr. Gashlin noted that there was no government level set for smoking at that time, but there is now for cell towers.


Mr. Malm displayed a photo of a sign on the tower noting that frequency may exceed FCC limits within the compound. Mr. Gashlin explained that frequency has nothing to do with power. Mrs. Gonneville said that she is concerned too about radiation. Mrs. Malm spoke for the neighborhood, saying people are not happy about this request. Mr. Gashlin noted he is sympathetic to the abutters’ worries.


Dick Hall asked for clarification on the direction of the beam; if it would be aimed towards Salmon Falls. Mr. Gashlin responded that the FCC limits the amount of radiation, and US Cellular’s proposed dish is within the limits. He presented a map to the Board indicating where the tower is located and where the 3.8 degree beam is directed. Dick Hall noted that the beam is directed away from the people in attendance. It would, however, be aimed 100 feet over the Millers’ house. The people on the Saco side of the river are not in attendance because they are not represented by Dayton. Dick noted the Board is barred from ruling on safety. From that perspective, the Board is in a difficult position, as it is a federal issue.


Mr. Malm asked again about the compliance issue, if someone could come around and do an independent study on the existing tower. Dick Hall said it might make more sense to test when the equipment is in place to get a more accurate reading. He noted that the federal government is telling us the towers are safe and hopefully they are. He repeated that the Board is not allowed to bar this based on health concerns.


Mr. Gashlin expressed the opinion that if a test was done on this, anything less than 99.8% on the existing equipment means they are in the clear. Each carrier emits something in the neighborhood of less than 3%. At that level, with two carriers, the tower is at 6%. On a similarly-sized tower in Poland Maine with similar equipment, the emissions are 0.06%. In comparison, the energy emitted from FM radio towers starts at the 50,000 watt range. AM radio towers are in the 100,000 range and cell towers are in the 4,000 watt range. A microwave itself is 75 watts. He further explained that 4,000 watts are emitted with arrays pointing in different directions, so it could be 1200+ watts in each direction, and it is over a wider area than microwave beams.


Mr. Gonneville asked why US Cellular would be taking the dish down in 18 months. Mr. Gashlin explained that the immediate problem is that there is a nearby site that doesn’t have fiber yet and won’t be fibered soon due to time issues. He noted again that they don't really want to use microwave dishes because of the cost and the inferior performance. There is not much incentive to use the dishes, but they need the ability. Mr. Gonneville asked who would be running the fiber: it is contracted out by US Cellular. He asked why the fiber isn't being run now. Mr. Gashlin did not know for sure, but noted it is frequently the biggest problem on sites. Dick Hall said that he had talked with other contractors and the problems they run into are usually a time issue; part of it is that CMP has to be involved.


Remi Caron explained that he works in telecommunications; he noted that there is a $26 million grant to the state to run fiber and it has to be done within 24 months. This is supposed to be completed within this part of the state within 12 months. He wondered why there isn't T1 copper fiber to the Saco site on McKinney Road. Mr. Gashlin noted that in terms of broad based work in this area, the reason for requiring microwave dishes would decrease as there is more fiber installed.


Dick Hall noted that the Board previously asked about US Cellular’s incentives to take the dish down, and that the Board had been told that they are very expensive so it makes no sense to have them sitting unused on towers. Mr. Gashlin verified Dick’s explanation.


Mr. Gashlin read the following statement from an article about RF safety from the FCC web site, entitled "Are Cellular and PCs Towers Safe?" He noted that cellular and PCS towers use different frequency bands.

"Measurements made near typical cellular and PCS installations, especially those with tower mounted antennas, have shown that ground level power densities are thousands of times less than the FCC’s limits for safe exposure. In fact, in order to be exposed to levels at or near the FCC limits for cellular or PCS frequencies, an individual would essentially have to remain in the main transmitting beam (at the height of the antenna) and within a few feet from the antenna. This makes it extremely unlikely that a member of the general public could be exposed to RF levels in excess of these guidelines due to cellular or PCS base station transmitters.”


Mrs. Malm asked what time of day has the highest emission level. Mr. Gashlin said that studies are done at highest levels, such as rush hour and noon. Mrs. Malm asked if people should be indoors during these highest levels.


Dick Hall noted that the Malms don't trust the FCC data and asked if they would be comfortable if a study showed emissions were within 1%. The Malms indicated that they would. Mrs. Malm reiterated there are still long term concerns about the effects of radiation. Mr. Malm said the FCC allows 100 times the emission levels that some European countries allow.

Remi Caron asked what the recourse would be if a study shows US Cellular to be above the limit. Mr. Gashlin said they would be breaking law. He noted that the FCC does not typically monitor such sites because they feel the emissions levels are so low. There is a contact number available for the FCC if one feels the levels are outside the allowed limit. He asked if the Planning Board would vote to lift the restriction on microwave dishes if US Cellular would agree to provide a test that proves they are working within the FCC limits. Dick noted that it would have to be independent engineer, not someone working for US Cellular. Mr. Gashlin proposed that the engineer could be approved by the Board. He would like the opportunity to provide some suitable names from which the Board could pick. An addition to that is that the CEO could require a statement on emissions from anyone asking to put more dishes on the tower.


Remi Caron clarified that any time anyone works on the tower, it requires a building permit. He asked if five antennas pop up, who is doing studies at that point? What happens when there are more there? Mr. Gashlin replied that US Cellular knows the power within which they operate. Dick Hall noted that things can be regulated, but verification is a condition for his trust and he wants an independent study.


Mr. Gashlin suggested that it might make people comfortable if US Cellular does a live test now to establish a base line, and then as a condition for any additional equipment, the applicant would have to provide a cumulative emissions study. Once a base line is established, if someone wants to add another dish, they could take the base line and add on the newest report. The Board thought that sounded practical. Dick Hall noted this is consumer driven but the Board does not want to make this onerous by driving up costs with frequent tests. He wants to make sure that what the Board gets is accurate.


Giselle Tardiff suggested that there should be a condition that if something goes on, something else comes off, and there should not be multiple dishes. Dick Hall noted again that the Board is limited in what it can do: the Board is not allowed to rule based on safety. The Board wants to make sure that what it is told is what is actually happening. The number of dishes can’t be limited.


Mr. Malm asked if the neighborhood could vote the proposal down. Dick Hall noted that the Board is here to represent the town, not the neighborhood, and the federal government is pretty clear on what it can do.


Mrs. Pisani asked about the fiber installation schedule. She asked for clarification that the purpose of the dish is to provide service until the fiber work is done. She felt that it wasn't necessary to lift the whole restriction on microwave dishes but maybe it could be just a temporary condition.


Mr. Gashlin noted that the tower had not been approved for one carrier only and that the arrays are a larger exposure than the dish. US Cellular does not think this is a reasonable restriction to have on a tower. He pointed out that US Cellular is looking at an entire network, not just working with one tower. Tower construction takes about eight weeks without the fiber work. Remi Caron noted that anyone who occupies a pole has six months to complete work on it. So potentially if US Cellular decides to put up another tower, and decides to use this tower as a hub, it is about seven months of use for a microwave dish. Mr. Gashlin explained that he doesn’t work in construction, but he thought it was a reasonable estimate.


Dick Hall explained there were two reasons to have a public hearing. He wants people to have a say, and he wants to learn something compelling enough from a technical stand point to act on this. The Board is directed by the FCC and federal government to cooperate in this. The purpose of the vote is to lift the microwave dish restriction and the Board is directed to do so. This allows the Board a window to require an independent test, and Mr. Gashlin is agreeing to do this.


Mr. Gonneville asked if there is the possibility of granting a temporary lift on the restriction. Remi Caron noted that Mr. Gashlin retracted the request for a temporary lift and instead has requested a permanent lift. Mr. Gonneville asked why the company had requested a change. Dick Hall explained that part of this is because of this hearing; it can be time consuming to go through this process. Mr. Gonneville noted that granting a temporary condition would be an incentive to keep it temporary.


Mr. Malm asked for clarification on whether the federal government would make the Board overturn the original CUP. The Board doesn’t know. Dick Hall noted that the federal statute very clearly directs the Board to work with cell towers. He noted that this could be appealed, but he felt that ethically the Board is directed to act so. The Board has the opportunity to have verification by an outside source.


Remi Caron called for more questions or comments; then asked Mr. Gashlin to restate his condition:

"As a condition to having this restriction lifted, US Cellular would agree to establish a base line cumulative frequency test for all the equipment currently on the tower and for the proposed microwave dish, after the dish is installed. For any future equipment to be installed, any applicant would be required to provide a cumulative emissions study which would include their proposed equipment. All studies are to be conducted by a licensed independent third party.”


Two tests would be required to start and any further installations would require a data sheet. The intent is that the applicant will provide the study. The initial live test will be done by an RF engineer approved be the Board in conjunction with the CEO.


Dick Hall noted that the Board will have to put together a list of conditions.


Mr. Gashlin clarified that if the request is approved, US Cellular would bolt the dish up, have a study done within 30 days, and provide the study to the Board. He provided the Board with a map of the expected microwave transmission path.


Dick Hall proposed the following preliminary motion: (see amended motion below)

“I would like to move to amend the original CUP application to allow a microwave dish on the condition that US Cellular provides within 30 days a base line test to find out the radiation levels around that tower, by a Board approved RF engineer. When the new microwave dish is put up, there will be another test within 30 days of it being live (also by a Board approved RF engineer) so there is a base line for the microwave dish also. The intent is for two base lines.”


He clarified that the Board wants a baseline without the dish and one with the dish. In the future the Board will accept spec sheets as adequate to add to the results. All other original CUP terms and conditions apply, only the restriction on microwave dishes is lifted. Anyone requesting to add something new to the tower will be required to give specifications to the Board.


Mr. Gashlin then pointed out that if US Cellular conducts one live test with everything on the tower, it would be only that one test and then anyone coming after would do a cumulative test so the Board could see everything at that point. US Cellular would only do one test, and anyone else coming on is providing those tests whether or not the dish is there.


Remi Caron asked if an RF test details emissions levels by frequency and if the Board would be able to strip out the levels. Dick Hall asked about the cost of tests and Mr. Gashlin noted it is thousands of dollars. He submitted a paper as a base line study from a company called C2, for Poland Maine, noting that this tower would be similar except for the addition of the Nextel array. Similar equipment would need to be added to the Tardiff Lane tower and the report would address the equipment as well as the emissions.


Dick Hall amended his motion to require only one test, to be conducted after the microwave dish is operational.


Remi Caron noted that the study did not reflect measurements taken, just math calculations. The Board would like someone to do measurements at the site and report the actual radiation. The Board wants to see the actual as well as the permissible levels, and from which location. The Board stated clearly that it wants RF measurements, not just calculations. Mrs. Malm requested that the study be done at peak times; it was explained that it would be cumulative.


Dick Hall amended his motion to approve the application to allow a microwave antenna on the Tardiff Lane tower with the following conditions:

  1. That all previous conditions are left intact on the original Conditional Use Permit of February 16, 2004 except for the restriction of the microwave antenna;
  2. That an RF frequency study is done within 30 days of the microwave antenna being operational by a Board approved engineer, pursuant to FCC guidelines in conjunction with recommendations made by the Board approved engineer. The study must give actual measurements of radiation and radio frequency as present at neighboring properties.
  3. All future applicants will provide documentation regarding RF specifications and may also be required to do further testing.


Dan Plourde seconded, all voted in favor. Mr. Gashlin is to provide a list of engineers to Jim Roberts. Remi Caron will also provide some names. The Board will mail all abutters the results of the study.


The public hearing ended at 8:45.





Valerie J. Cole, Secretary



Remi Caron, Chair

COPIES TO: Jim Roberts, Code Enforcement Officer; Selectmen; and Tax Assessor