I saw this in the Moorefield Examiner that I purchased this morning. It looks as if Cingular is withdrawing any and all applications to place cell towers that would give around full cell coverage from Rt 55 at the VA line to beyond Moorefield with towers all along corridor h. The blame lays SOLELY with the county commission for enacting super strict ordinances in order to collect hefiter fees. The ordinances I've heard are far stronger and stricter than any in Northern VA.
If anybody from DCSki hates the fact that we remain in a blacked out area, I would recommend writing a chastising letter to the Hardy County Commissioners letting them know your displeased feelings for their erratic behavior on creating and approving these ordinances. I have the commissioners contact info if anyone needs it.
Here's what the article had to say:
Volume 115 - Number 30
By Dick Hughes
Special to Moorefield Examiner
Cingular Wireless, which raised expectations for bringing cell phone service to a portion of East Hardy this year, is withdrawing its applications to build three cellular towers along Corridor H, a spokesman said.
Timothy Stakes, who represented Cingular in two years of negotiations with the county, told 911 Director Paul Lewis that the county's wireless tower ordinace was excessively restrictive and costly.
Lewis said Stakes told him that of the 32 political jurisdictions in which he represents Cingular, Hardy County has the most restrictive ordinance and the highest fees.
The company decided to use it's construction budge in counties more amiable to cellular companies, Stakes told Lewis in a recorded telephone call last Tuesday.
Lewis, the county's point man with Cingular for the past two years, said his experience with Cingular and others, tells him the county's tower ordinance needs to be "changed and amended to be more acceptable with not quite as much hassle to go through."
Lewis doubted that any other company would be willing to build towers in Hardy County under the ordinance either.
The ordinance was written by attorneys and consultance for Hemphill Corp., which built towers at Caledonia Heights outside Moorefield and at Helmic rock on North Branch Mountain, and were designed to discourage competing towers, Lewis said.
Cingular's plans for the erecting towers this year were thrown into uncertainty three weeks ago when Stakes informed Lewis that the company was having second thoughts about building towers in Hardy County.
Then last Tuesday, Stakes told Lewish and a reporter for the Examiner that the deal was off and that a formal letter withdrawing it's application for three towers in East Hardy would be forthcoming.
In March, Cingular submitted applications to the Hardy County Planning Commission to build new cellular towers on North Mountain outside of Wardensville, Warden Ridge east of Baker and a third west of Baker on a site off Bear's Hell Road near an old Washington Gas tower.
The company said the three towers would provide cell phone service along Corridor H from Wardensville to Moorefield, giving coverage at least to that portion of East Hardy that now is cell phone dead zone.
The three towers would not have the range to cover most of the Lost River Valley down WV 259 to the Virginia line or Bean Settlement north of Corridor H. NOr would they provide coverage for South Fork and Old Fields areas.
Only the Moorefield area has cell phone service - supplied by a tower in Grant County.
Cingular said at the time that its priority was to provide service to the high volume traffic along Corridor H and would consider, but not promise, building additional towers in other parts of the county over a five-year period.
As the county's ordinace requires, the company deposited $8,500 to permit the county to hire a consultant to review the applications, which included detailed construction specifications and engineering assessments of coverage each tower would provide.
The county hired Larry Kuykendall of Moorefield, a telecommunications specialist, to review Cingular's application. He pronounced it "technically sound" buit hired an outside firm to assess the accuracy of Cingular's estimates of signal strength and need to exceed tower hgiegh limits. The independent analysis confirmed Cingular's technical assessment.
Lewis said the county asked Cingular to respond to some minor questions, and "once I had that stuff we were ready to go to hearing."
But along the way, the company apparently decided the county's ordinances was too restrictive and costly and that it would be cheaper and easier to use its budget for new tower construction elsewhere.
From the git-go, Cingular expressed displeasure with the ordinance, even though it eventually went ahead and filed construction applications, asking only to be exempt from requirements for burying electrial lines and providing vegetated barries at tower sites.
The planning commission indicated a willingness to grant those waivers.
The county's tower ordinance was drafted in 2001 by Richard Commiunications, a New York consultant, who was working with Hemphill, an Oklahoma tower builder, and the county for construction of the towers at Caledonia Heights and Helmick rock.
The ordinance requires that an applicatn for wireless transmission must give preference to renting space on existing county or privately owned towers; deposit $8,500 in escrow even before a formal application for a new tower is made, and must pay a $5,000 special permit fee for each tower.
Cingular said the Hemphill towers and unused county-owned tower in Wardensville were unacceptable for their use.
"It's like the perfect storm for a tower company like ourselves," Stakes told the Examiner last November. He said convincing Cingular's corporate "bean counters" to commit to Hardy County was a tough sell.
In the end, as Lewis interpreted his conversation last week with Stakes, Cingular decided to expend it's time, energy and money elsewhere.
If the county repeals the exsisting ordinance and adopts one "more beneficial to the county and to cell companies," two or three other cellular companies might be willing to come in, Lewis said.
Planning Commission President David Heishman (husband to the editor / part owner of the Moorefield Examiner btw) said he would like the County Commission to consider putting a bond issue on the general election ballot so the county could build it's own towers and lease space on them to cellular companies.
"If people want cell service band enough, they'll get the money approved; if they don't, they won't," he said.
"I see it as two different issues. I would like to see the County Commission put up the towers and then do No. 2-find a cellular company to lease space. If we had a good tower system ... then you can hang almost anything on those towers you want."
Heishman said that the county could get state or federal grant money to assist in the financing.
A wireless tower of the height needed in mountainous terrain would cost between $100,000 and $150,000 to build, and the county would need 10 or 11 to provide something close to full coverage.
Lewis said the county has had preliminary discussions with Hemphill about purchasing outright or through lease-purchase the towers at Caledonia Heights and Helmick Rock. The county's contract with hemphill for free use of the towers for 911 service expires in December and there is no provision for automatic renewal.
While he doubts Hemphill will pull the plug on 911, he cannont be sure Hemphill will not use its leverage to negotiate more favorable leasing or sales terms. In the county's favor is the fact that Hemphill has never had a paying customer in the five yeras of the towers' exsistance.