Borough approves new Shoemaker cell tower

The borough assembly Tuesday evening approved a lease amendment for a new cell tower at the Shoemaker Harbor, which the developer said will bring improved cell service to the island.

Action on a second agreement to lease borough land for a new tower next to the landfill at the north end of the island was postponed to the assembly’s Aug. 10 meeting, waiting for a property appraisal.

The Shoemaker tower will replace a shorter pole installed in 2007 near the parking lot. The new 125-foot-tall tower will be capable of providing improved cell service, said the developer, Florida-based Vertical Bridge, which will lease space on the tower to cell providers.

The amendment to the borough land lease expands the area from about 160 square feet to 1,898 square feet and would allow for additional storage facilities and the potential to add new services to the tower. The site will be surrounded with a 6-foot-tall chain link fence, topped with barbed wire, according to the developer.

The proposed monthly lease rate was set at $835.

“The existing wooden pole does not have the structural capacity to support installation of new equipment,” Gary Brekke, with Alaska Aerial Survey, wrote to the borough on behalf of Vertical Bridge’s application.

“The proposal will benefit the local residents that are now, or will be, GCI subscribers. They will notice a vast improvement in their service as a result of long awaited cellular technological improvements not possible with the existing wooden pole,” Brekke wrote.

There was some discussion about whether or not the equipment atop the tower would provide the latest 5G service. However, Joel Aro, with Lynx Consulting, told the assembly the equipment on the Shoemaker tower would provide just regular LTE service at this time.

Assemblymember Patty Gilbert, acting mayor for this meeting, suggested an amendment to the lease that would require the assembly to receive reports on the radio frequency radiation from the tower.

“When you sublease and have all these antennas, obviously you’re subject to federal and state regulations, and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission),” Gilbert said. “But what about the combined effect of all your subleases? Is there a way to gauge the radiation output from that? … We need to have some language in there that takes into consideration the totality.”

After some brief discussion, the assembly approved the amendment.

Vertical Bridge is also the applicant for the new tower next to the landfill, with Verizon listed as the user.

“Granting the permit to proceed with this project will greatly enhance wireless coverage in the area” at the north end of Wrangell Island including residences, the airport, and the islands at the mouth of the Stikine River, according to the application.


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