Green space vs. better reception

| 16 Aug 2017 | 01:33

By Laurie Gordon
Perhaps it's a sign of the times. Everyone — well almost everyone — wants optimal cell phone service wherever they go. Dropped calls can be a deal breaker, people want to know what's going on on Facebook and Twitter 24/7, and losing a Snapchat streak can be catastrophic to tweens. But what about the great outdoors? In Sparta, there's an area of green space that may fall victim to the installation of utility poles intended to help better cell service. At least one resident is calling foul.
Timothy McDonald of Jefferson, living just over the line from Sparta, is concerned about the green space near his home where Verizon wants to install “network nodes,” or mini-antennas, on utility poles to improve cellphone service in poor reception areas.
“We're not making anymore of these green spaces and I think we should preserve what we have,” McDonald said.
McDonald has lived on Sparta Mountain Road, in Jefferson, since 1998.
He said, “Late last winter I was walking on the road and saw a bunch of stakes. I called the town engineer (in Sparta) and was told that Verizon was going to run a fiber-optic line from a cell phone node on the lines that cross Glen Road up to Milton Road. Verizon wanted to put a node on the cell tower there and hard wire a fiber optic line about five miles to hook up to the node on the cell tower that's on Pasco Road. To carry that line they would have to put utility poles in the green space on Milton Road. I don't think it's good.”
He especially doesn't think it's good because he's come up with three other options which he said he presented at a recent meeting between PSE&G, Verizon and the town.
“They could route it on Russia Road or they could bury that line in the green space,” McDonald said. “The third option, and in my opinion the best, is they could use the PSE&G right of way and follow the electric lines. But I was told that PSE&G doesn't like to share their right of way.”
McDonald said he is unclear as to exactly why Verizon can come in and do this.
“In Jefferson it's a town ordinance that Verizon can do whatever they want in the utility corridor but I am not sure about Sparta,” he said. “Sparta Town Manager, Mr. Close, was very nice to arrange for this meeting (held on Thursday, August 10th at 2 pm) and held off on issuing the permit until we had the meeting. I presented the alternatives and they said they would investigate. I hope they will decide to go another way for the public good.”
McDonald's neighbor, Teresa Sellinger, commented in an e-mail to Straus News, “This meeting was scheduled last minute in what Mr. McDonald believes is a political move to quell interest in the subject and limit any Sparta resident push-back.”
Sparta Town Manager William Close said, “The Township is not placing or installing any poles on Milton Road. This is not a municipal project. A subcontractor for Verizon Wireless has made application for a road opening permit to locate six new utility poles on behalf of Verizon Wireless for a new fiber optic line to connect their existing cell tower on Weldon Road to small nodes along Glen Road. There are two additional poles that would be installed along the Jefferson Township section of the Milton Road. They have already been approved for installation. Sparta has not yet approved the application for the permit and is awaiting confirmation from the State that the proposed scope of work for the project is approved. The Township has limited oversight over the ability of utilities to do work within public right-of-ways. That is governed by the BPU and, depending on any environmental questions, the NJDEP.”
Close added, “I don't know if I can say there is no benefit to the residents of the Sparta. Mr. McDonald is from Jefferson and I believe he is referring to residents of the area in general. It is my understanding that the nodes are intended to help improve cell phone coverage in that area of the community by filling gaps in coverage/signal strength with the 'nodes' technology.“