​Hartman Updates Community Council on Cell Tower

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the March 25 Sewanee Community Council meeting, Eric Hartman, head of University Risk Management, updated the council on the University’s “aim to be responsive to concerns” about the proposed location for a new cell tower. “We’re in a holding pattern,” Hartman said. “We’ve explored three other locations, which have not been successful.”
Two sites, the Convenience Center and behind Facilities Management, were too close to the airport to allow for the tower height needed, Hartman explained. The third site at the University water tower, further from central campus, would have needed a very tall tower to allow for sufficient propagation (i.e., penetration of stone buildings) and so would require a light to meet federal aviation rules.
“We want to try to avoid it being lit,” Hartman insisted. “Beyond the football field and dairy we begin to lose signal strength.”
Remarking on the finding of the Society for Historical Preservation, Hartman said the organization requested evidence other sites had been investigated and that the tower be as short as possible—“Our tower company has done that...they’ve looked at alternative locations.”
Hartman stressed that Verizon needed to do propagation research for each proposed site. “This is one of the reasons we weren’t successful in getting a Verizon cell tower in 2006,” he said. “They stopped working with us.”
Council Representative Erik Keen pointed out Wi-Fi calling was an option inside buildings and asked if Verizon would still work with the University if the tower only provided outside building service.
“I don’t know,” Hartman said. “We’ll continue to explore other options. We’ve asked Verizon to come back, as well as another Verizon company. We’re still waiting to schedule those dates.”
Council Representative Cindy Potter revisited the issue of the need for sidewalks on Tennessee Avenue.
Austin Oakes, who heads up Facilities Management, emphasized the project would be expensive due to drainage issues, with $70,000-$75,000 as an estimated cost.
“It’s on our radar along with several other sidewalk projects,” Oakes said. Top on the priorities list are sidewalks for sorority houses in the vicinity of the football field and for the Georgia Avenue Townhouses in the vicinity of Stirling’s.
Potter called attention to danger to pedestrians on Tennessee Avenue and suggested a temporary cinder path.
“That’s easy to take a look at,” Oakes said.
Revisiting ongoing grumbling about parking shortage, Council Representative Theresa Shackelford proposed residents have the option of purchasing a parking pass for a cost $50-$100 that allowed parking in reserved areas.
Police Chief Marie Eldridge said the parking policy was reviewed and updated each summer. For the April meeting, the council will review the policy and make recommendations. Eldridge noted that anyone who believed they erroneously received a parking citation could lodge an appeal at the police department website.
Council election officer Charles Whitmer called attention to problems with the Council’s policy for filling vacancies. While the council can appoint someone to fill a vacancy, residents of the district might not agree with the council’s decision. Also problematic, a special election to fill a vacancy is only allowed within 30 days of the most recent election.
Whitmer will draft a revised protocol for filling vacancies and present it at the next meeting.
The council voted to defer until fall awarding the project funding grants. Since no awards were made in the 2018-19 academic year, $20,000 will be available to fund community enhancement projects in the fall. Pixie Dozier and Kate Reed will co-chair the recommendation committee.
The council’s regular meeting dates for next year are Sept. 9, Oct. 28, Jan. 13, March 23, and May 18.
The Council meets next April 22.