Bow to address cell service issues with new company

Leslie Ludkte. A cell tower in Northfield is the same height and design as is proposed for Bow.

Leslie Ludkte. A cell tower in Northfield is the same height and design as is proposed for Bow. Courtesy

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 02-19-2024 5:37 PM

More than a year after attempting to address the dead zones in Bow with a massive cell tower that is facing legal challenges, the town is now pursuing a fresh approach with a new company.

Despite the ongoing court battle over the previous 190-foot cell tower proposal from Rising Tide Towers LLC, the select board has approved a $6,000 budget for Isotrope LLC, a Massachusetts-based wireless communication company, to spearhead a new project to map out dead spots and develop a plan to provide better cell coverage to the residents.

“We need a town-wide plan for maximum coverage with a minimum number of towers. That is our ultimate goal,” said Dee Treybig, chairperson of the telecommunication committee, during last week’s select board meeting.

The committee received bids from five out-of-state companies, ranging from $5,000 to $19,000. Once the contract is signed with Isotrope, the company will start mapping how radio frequency signals are distributed throughout Bow to develop a comprehensive plan to improve cell service.

Last year’s proposal from Rising Tide Towers LLC to construct a cell tower on a 62-acre parcel of town-owned land on Branch Londonderry Turnpike, which is flanked by properties on Crockett, Laurel, and Sharon drives, did not promise full coverage for the town. Moreover, its proximity to neighboring properties, including that of Kristina and Rob Parisien, who reside just 300 feet from the proposed tower, triggered a lawsuit against the Planning Board for waiving local ordinances.

In their suit, the Parisiens said they were not against installing a cell tower but rather ensuring compliance with town ordinances throughout the process.

Local ordinances in Bow specify that personal wireless service facilities should not exceed 90 feet in height and should not rise more than 20 feet above the tree canopy. Despite these regulations, the planning board approved the 190-foot tower by waiving these ordinances.

Residents were also dissatisfied that the town did not solicit bids from other companies before Rising Tide Towers became involved with the town’s proposal to improve cell coverage. They were chosen when David Stack, the town manager, met a representative from the company at an E911 commission meeting.

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In case the court rules against the tower’s construction, the town has asked Isotrope to develop two plans – one will incorporate the proposed Rising Tide Towers tower, while the other will exclude it.

Mike Wheeler, telecommunication committee member, said he is excited and looking forward to soon having better coverage in Bow.

“Everyone in town is struggling with cell service and it’s everybody’s working off of the WiFi basically because Comcast is all over town with cable,” said Wheeler. “Most people get their service through their WiFi box or the cable and as soon as you leave the house and go over the next hill and into the next little dip, you are out of service.”