A small group of area residents attended a committee meeting at City Hall on Monday and spoke their mind on cellular infrastructure provider Mobilitie’s desire to build two 120 foot cell phone towers in the city which would be utilized by major cell phone service providers. Brian Gaudet, a representative of Mobilitie, was present to answer questions.
The company had previously submitted proposals to build one tower near Lynch Middle School and another on Church Street. The company has since withdrawn those proposals and agreed to work with city officials to find suitable locations.
One resident asked why the company was seeking to build the towers in the city. Gaudet said that there is a current demand for better service within the city, and that future cell phone technology, such as higher speed “5G” network technology, will require additional infrastructure.
Gaudet added that it isn’t just the City of Amsterdam that his company is looking to build in.
“Its a nationwide build out,” said Gaudet. “We’re looking to diversify what’s out there, densify the network. A lot of its data-driven, mobile apps, mobile email, navigation on your phones, cars that are becoming connected. So it’s not just Amsterdam, a lot of the towns in the area, across the whole state, across the whole country, are going to get similar infrastructures.”
Several residents spoke against locating the towers within the city, citing concerns about negative effects on residential property values and potential health effects.
“In my opinion, there’s really nothing that can be said that would make me think that placing cell towers in our city would be a good thing. We are trying to revitalize our community, and two blinking 120 foot monstrosities aren’t in our plans,” said one resident.
“The re-sale values on our homes now, forget about it. We can’t even sell our homes. There’s two homes on my street that are in fantastic condition that are abandoned because the owners couldn’t sell them because they are in the City of Amsterdam. And now we have the proposal for the cell towers to come in. It’s just unconscionable that it would even be considered,” said another resident.
“As we learn more and more about these rays, I think you’re going to see the threshold limits that are allowed for humans…I think as we find out more and more about these things, we’re going to decrease those limits. And why would we want to put them where our children are growing up…I’m against it,” said another resident.
A James Street resident said that he currently gets poor cell phone reception at his home and would welcome better coverage. He expressed doubt about potential negative health effects of cell towers, pointing out that there are already several cell towers in the area.
“I’d like to see the cell tower go up,” he said, and suggested a commercial property on James street as a possible location and later suggested he would be willing to put the tower on his own residential property.
Another resident said, “Amsterdam is dealing with a lot…we’re trying to rekindle our city. [City officials] have a lot of initiatives going right now…anything we can do to maintain or continue to beautify our area is important. So cell towers, I hear you, they’re a necessary evil. All I ask is that we look at all possible alternatives, that we don’t further denigrate what our residential sections look like.”
Gaudet expressed appreciation for the public comments and said his company would take them to heart.
“We don’t want to just come in and say this is what we’re doing…trying to jam it down your throats, we want to work and be collaborative,” said Gaudet.
Gaudet said that his company is open to different ideas such as reducing the height of the towers or trying to camoflage them. In regards to health concerns, he said that radio frequency levels around the towers would be checked after construction and after any modifications or upgrades, and would comply with current regulations.
Alderman Chad Majewski said he would like to see if it’s possible to put towers outside the city limits.
“We all agree we need the service, and the compatibility and the data to continue moving forward, but I also agree with everyone’s concerns about the safety and the health issues,” said Majewski. “If we can come up with a little bit better of a location and go back to the table and see if we can have [Mobilitie] draw up some different maps going a little bit farther out of the city, we might be able to come to a conclusion for you. But based on the phone calls I’ve gotten and what we’ve heard here tonight, I wouldn’t want to proceed with what we had originally suggested.”
Gaudet said that locating the towers outside the city was possible, but would require adding smaller antennas on utility or street light polls.