CHIPLEY — The Washington County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to consider a new cell tower for Wausau and to begin the process of seeking a $750,000 Community Block Development Grant for the county.
Roger Simpson, representing AT&T, presented the plans for a 195-foot cell tower in Wausau that will improve AT&T’s coverage along Highway 77 between Wausau and Bay County.
“AT&T approached the town of Wausau to consider where a tower could be placed,” Simpson said, “because we had no coverage in that area.”
Simpson said the situation will be a win-win for the company and the town of Wausau. “The town will receive the financial benefit from leasing out part of the park for the tower, and it will improve our coverage along this important highway.”
Senior Planner Michael DeRuntz showed the commissioners artist’s renditions of what the area will look like once the tower is built. “Due to the tree mass and the distance from the highway, I don’t believe it will be very visible,” he said.
Commissioner James Ussery asked if AT&T couldn’t use an existing tower to get the same coverage, and Simpson explained that due to the amount of data that is being handled by cell towers today, the effective range of towers has decreased from 2 miles to about ½ a mile.
“We have to have more structures to be able to provide our customers the service they expect,” Simpson said.
County Engineer Cliff Knauer was also on hand to inform the commissioners of an upcoming CBDG grant the county will be seeking with the intention of completing the paving of Orange Hill Road.
“It’s been five years since we had a CBDG grant, and we’re eligible,” Knauer said. The proposed project includes paving about 1.6 miles of road, of which the county already has right-of-way easements.
“In the past, they expected the county to have $200,000 cash, and as you know, Washington County doesn’t have $200,000 cash laying around,” Knauer said. This year, the grant program is considering projects that have plans and easements in place and that are ready to begin and they are considering that preparedness as a substitute for the $200,000.
Commissioner Nan Thompson pointed out that part of the paving was supposed to be performed by the developers of the Rhythm DRI subdivision project as a condition of their agreements with the county. “Is there something else we could hold them to?” she asked.
“We’d have to get with the county attorney on that,” Knauer said.