Many say yes to better cell coverage in Pauls Valley, but the real disputes come with where to put a very big tower to make that happen.
That very issue took center stage last week as all five members of Pauls Valley's city council agreed with a previous recommendation to deny a variance for a 170-foot tower.
The problem for many was the proposed site for the AT&T tower at a spot near South Willow and Burr Shopping Center.
A week earlier the local Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny the variance of the city's 35-foot height restriction, while a number of residents and business owners voiced their opposition during the recent council meeting to the tower being at that one site.
Before the council said no by a 5-0 count there was plenty of discussion on the need for other options for possible tower locations.
“I'm just concerned with the site,” said Bonnie Meisel. “My concern is we're not seeing any other options. I would like to hear about some other options and see what other places are being considered as possible sites.
“We're just trying to be the citizens' advocates,” she said about council's denial of the variance.
Both Mayor Jocelyn Rushing and new council member Eric Smith agreed it was the input from local residents that made their decision an easy one.
“It's not the improvement we're against because everybody wants good service. It's the site that we're against,” Rushing said.
“Our citizens have great concerns. I have to honor the citizens. A majority of them had stood and said no. These are the people that live here and have to look at it,” she said about the proposed tower.
“Just about everybody I've talked to, both citizens and business owners, are against this tower,” Smith said.
“They're greatly opposed to this tower at that site. There might be some better places to put it.”
A variety of concerns were expressed by some attending the meeting, including the fear of the 170-foot tower falling, possible health risks and the impact on property taxes.
“I would love to hear about other locations,” said Justice Tyler. “I'm like everybody here, I would like to see what other sites are being considered.”
All of those comments came after AT&T representative Troy Williams provided his take on a project meant to place a single pole tower in Pauls Valley to improve cell coverage.
He said there are some AT&T towers around PV but those don't provide the coverage needed in the town itself, including the downtown businesses.
“We've got a major gap in all the necessary coverage, the in-building coverage,” Williams said.
“This site just happened to fit every one of the needs for better coverage. We're trying to solve the coverage gaps without being too intrusive. There are a lot of factors like topography and the floodplain that make coverage very challenging in Pauls Valley.
“We saw this green grass in a triangle that was the perfect place.”
Williams, who said it took him a year to get this project at this proposed site to this point.
Others from an AT&T group indicated other sites they've looked at “lose the core” of the town when it comes to improving the coverage.
They added the virus pandemic – because of increased use – has worsened a cell coverage here that was already in need of improvement.
“I didn't realize so many people would be against it. I apologize for that and it means I didn't do my job. I heard the comments and we took them to heart,” Williams said.
Local AT&T rep Jan Moran said this proposal was only meant to help the community.
“The last thing we want to do is alienate people,” Moran said.
“Troy has worked with the Planning and Zoning for over a year. That is the perfect location to address service needs of this community. That's the reason it was chosen.”
During last week's meeting the council also approved a resolution allowing the city of Pauls Valley to apply for funding to help with its expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This will allow us to apply for up to $450,000 worth of funding through the CARES Act,” said City Manager James Frizell.