T-Mobile Cell Tower Contract Awarded in Township

Chatham Township Committee approved the temporary cell tower at Esternay Field by a vote of 4-1.

A contract for a temporary cell tower was approved by the Chatham Township Committee by a vote of 4-1 at their Thursday meeting.

"The contract is for two years," Attorney Carl Woodward said, with two possible six-month extensions. Because the field is part of the township's Open Space inventory, the state Department of Environmental Protection will not allow a cell tower to remain in the field for more than three years.

The tower will be located in Esternay Field where a children's playground is currently located. As part of the contract, T-Mobile will replace the playground with new equipment when the tower is taken down.

T-Mobile initially proposed and was the sole bidder for the tower. Engineers from T-Mobile told the committee at a previous meeting the tower would cover about 1.3 miles in eastern Chatham Township and New Providence.

T-Mobile usually puts its cell towers on top of PSE&G towers. During PSE&G's North Central Reliability Project, they have to remove their towers and find alternative locations.

Two such locations currently exist in Chatham Township, one at Colony Pool and one at the Chatham Township Municipal Building, but T-Mobile said there is still an area without coverage. This tower will provide service for that area, including along River Road and Springfield Avenue.

The Chatham Township Committee approved a public bid for the tower at their Sept. 27 meeting by a vote of 3-1.

Despite numerous objections from residents at past meetings, only one resident, Jim Venezia was the only person to object during the public session of Thursday's meeting.

"It sends a terrible message to kids, taking recreation lands and destroying them for a cell tower," Venezia said.

Venezia also said he was concerned about any health impacts for children in putting the tower in a place where children will play after the tower is taken down.

"So many things don't show health issues until years later," he said.

Laura Ali Nonnenmacher cast the sole nay vote, saying the playground at Esternay was more valuable than the income from the tower.

"I don't think it's worth the money," she said. "I think there could be a win-win [situation] with this, but I don't think this is it."

Other members of the committee, however, said it was the only suitable location in town.

"We asked them to look at other locations," Mayor Nicole Hagner said. "They looked at the fire department, and at another site we have, and it doesn't give the coverage area that this location does."

T-Mobile originally looked at putting the tower inside a private residence, but neighbors strongly objected and the committee directed the cell phone company to look for a municipal site to put the tower at instead.

"I feel bad [about losing the playground]," Committee Member Kathy Abbott said, "but if you look around, it's not a new cell tower. It's the old cell tower beign moved. But the old one was on top of the high tension towers."

T-Mobile will still have to appear before the Planning Board before they can begin constructing the tower.

Hagner said this will be the Planning Board's fourth hearing for a cell tower in town. "They have a pretty good idea of what the issues are," Hagner said.

Woodward told the committee the Planning Board could get more details from T-Mobile in their hearing, but T-Mobile would not be under any obligation to appear before them unless the contract was approved.

Woodward also said the township does not have to sign the contract immediately, and he recommended the township have T-Mobile sign the contract first.

Duncan Munchkin November 16, 2012 at 02:39 PM
>> "I feel bad [about losing the playground]," Committee Member Kathy Abbott said, "but if you look around, it's not a new cell tower. It's the old cell tower beign moved. But the old one was on top of the high tension towers." << The idiocy of this statement leaves me baffled. The issue was not whether it was old or new--the issues were about stealing a kid's playground, ruining the site of many athletic practices, unknown health concerns of these towers, and demonstrating your willingness to sell off your open space to any corporation with a few thousand dollars. Dumbing it down further, the issue was "how much does the council care about the township they govern?" And the answer was "Not much."
Duncan Munchkin November 16, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Didn't Kathy Abbott run as kind of a "faux" green candidate? Didn't she brag about being on the Environmental Commission for 10 years? What a hypocrite! It is time to investigate how many of these council members were personally "lobbied" by T-Mobile to vote for this.
Biff November 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Kathy Abbott's environmental legacy will forever be blighted and henceforth remembered for her eager willingness to trade “Green Space for Greenbacks”. Her grade as an environmentalist is now an F (gift!). The Township should run a contest to see who can come closest to guessing how long the “temporary” tower will be in-place (anyone over the age of 40 should name a much younger heir on their submission, given the likelihood of a payout in the very distant future). The Township’s lawyer states unequivocally that it can’t be more than two years, with two possible 6 month extensions. LOL, I would sure welcome him staking his salary on that! In the coming years/decades this “monument” to poor local government will serve as a constant reminder that Chatham Township has and continues to need smart, ethical, conscious and caring elected officials like Laura Nonnenmacher. Not only is Laura the only one of the Committee members not willing to sell out the families, children, concerned citizens and protectors of green space, but she was also the only Committee Member to truly give their all during the aftermath of Sandy and the nor’easter. Thank you Laura for being the lone bright spot in Chatham Township government!!
Hugs November 16, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Good move by the council. The payground is not used that often and mostly during soccer games. Far less use than Castle Park. At least they are trying to find ways to make money and secure the rules governing removal of tower in 2-3 years. Saying the tower might pose health issues down the road is insane. For that matter, kudos again to the committee for forcing children to play elsewhere and away from the dangerous NJ mosquito that carries West Nile Virus which lingers along the Passaic River!
Sir November 16, 2012 at 03:30 PM
There are other playgrounds the kids can use. Why is there even discussion around this?
Biff November 16, 2012 at 04:01 PM
While I can't agree with your preference of $'s over playgrounds and green space, and haven't heard of any West Nile pandemic in Chatham, I sure did love and agree with your post on November 9th regarding the thousands that were still without power in the Township. You were spot on, and your quote deserves being repeated below: "We elected the Mayor to be a LEADER. She has failed miserably and obviously she is overwhelmed by this mess." Well said Hugs!
Duncan Munchkin November 16, 2012 at 07:12 PM
There is discussion around this because this is America. And if we left all of these decisions up to spineless, "money is everything", pro-corporatocracy automatons like yourself and the council, you can imagine how visually polluted, environmentally bereft, and spiritually gutted our communities would be; partly owned by every business that is willing to toss a couple grand our way. The Esternay playground is an area of recreation, harmless, and available to the public. The tower that will replace it offers no recreation, is questionably harmful, is an eyesore, and is beneficial to a number of river people so small that T-Mobile can't even provide a count. This is what we trade our open space for--this and a couple thousand dollars--so that river people have enough bandwidth to watch videos in their basements. I realize you see this as "progress" and a great financial opportunity for the township, but I don't. Especially at the rate they misspend any money they have...paddle tennis anyone? T-Mobile has tried to do this across the country (35,000 towers and counting they brag) and, in some places, there was discussion--the people won and no tower was built. So, that is why there is discussion around this. Because sometimes the people win. My sincere hope is that the next poor decision from the council adversely affects you personally, your property, or your family so that you, too, will become one of the people.
chatham98 November 16, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Duncan - You sort of went transparent with your last sentence. Having a "fit" are we? How old are you?
R Clemens November 16, 2012 at 11:05 PM
When did T-mobile start providing coverage in chatham? I know it's on the web site but did you ever try to use it?
heretoolong November 16, 2012 at 11:20 PM
I used to have t-mobile. I had to go on my porch to get a signal. And I don't live on river rd.
Sir November 16, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Have another donut Duncan.
BFF November 17, 2012 at 01:57 AM
This is just disgusting. I am appalled.
Peter Null November 17, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I don't see anything in this discussion about how much money T-Mobile will be paying the township. Did I miss that?
ChathamFan November 18, 2012 at 03:18 PM
You can patronize Duncan, but he or she is correct. The town did not do due diligence on placement of this tower. If it was proposed near Noe, I promise you Mr. Brower would be apoplectic. I am saddened by our Mayor's ineptness and often nastiness, along with others on the Committee.
chatham98 November 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
ChathamFan: When I attended the meetings I saw neither of the negative characteristics you mention. Actually, I found the committee's actions fairly balanced. Often in these situations 100% of the folks are not completely satisfied but, I also heard no compelling argument against the playground proposal like there was for the original proposed "reserve" property. There is much more emotion on the blog. Not the right place to voice the argument.. You have to attend the meeting(s) and speak up. There were plenty of opportunities.
Biff November 18, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Duncan, and especially ChathamFan are correct, the Towlnship Committee did not do their due diligence. Rather than independently consider other viable options, as Laura Nonnenmacher suggested, that could have been a win- win, the Committee relied on T-Mobile to tell them what THEY thought was best. This is something no successful business person would ever do. ChathamFan is 100% correct, can you imagine if the tower was being proposed anywhere near Noe Pond Club or Bailey's house, LOL!! You would then see some REAL effort from the Committee. Chatham98, what % of the Township do you think are happy about the cell tower replacing the children's playground on our green space, I'd wager that it's a lot less than 50%. I can't tell you how many people I have spoken to who are disgusted by this outcome and ashamed to admit, like I am, that we voted for Kathy Abbott (never again!!).
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