Two telecommunications towers planned for area

As described in separate Public Notices published in the June 4 edition of The SUN, the Alltel Corporation plans to erect two new telecommunications towers in the Pagosa Springs area. A 123-foot tower will replace an existing one half its height, while another will reach nearly 200 feet in the air.

According to one notice, the shorter of the two structures — referred to as a “Telecommunications Monopole” — is planned for somewhere “near Springs Street, Pagosa Springs ... ” Presumably, though no one at Alltel seems to know or is willing to say, the tower will likely replace one of the few now standing on Reservoir Hill.

The second notice indicates the wireless service provider aims to “build a 199-foot Self-Support Telecommunications Tower near Ivan’s Court, Pagosa Springs.” Again, the described location is conveniently vague, though it appears Alltel wants to raise the lofty column somewhere just south of Aspen Springs Unit 6.

Both projects are now in the “public comment phase,” which evidently expires July 4. As the notices read, public comments regarding potential effects from the sites on “historic properties” may be submitted within 30 days from the date of publication, which again, was June 4.

In speaking with a select few Alltel representatives, none cared to speculate as to what the company meant by “historic properties,” or whether comments regarding the effects on ranching, residential or commercial properties were also admissible. They would only say comments will be accepted until the deadline.

Nevertheless, the notices suggest remarks may be directed to Tanya Chetyrkina, Wireless Projects, Environmental Resources Management, 30775 Bainbridge Rd., Suite 180, Solon, OH 44139. Chetyrkina’s phone number, (440) 264-1261, is also included, although she has not answered calls, or returned multiple calls made by The SUN.

E-mailing comments to public_comments@dotright.com is another option, but the notices did not mention whether replies to consumer questions or concerns might be forthcoming.

In fairness, a day or two after leaving messages at the number provided, Wesley Brown, a self-proclaimed spokesman for Alltel, did respond to messages left on Chetyrkina’s recorder, but admitted to knowing virtually nothing about these two projects. While he couldn’t speak to their location or their exact intent, he politely explained that they were likely meant to merely enhance customer services in the area. He also mentioned roaming agreements with other providers, and suggested services would eventually improve for folks other than Alltel customers.

In hope of learning more about the proposed towers’ precise locations, and whether they might be part of a transition from analog to digital technology, The SUN called a Durango phone listing for Alltel. Ironically, that number had been disconnected, but a customer service representative did answer another Alltel number, (800) 255-8359, for a location in Farmington.

In response to questions regarding the new towers and their locations, the operator quickly directed inquiries to a technical service department, where another operator also seemed baffled by The SUN’s quest. That’s when Kyle, a technical support supervisor, came to the phone.

When asked about the projects in general and the tower locations specifically, Kyle refused to address the matter at all, stating only that, if Alltel wanted the public to know more about them, it would have issued a public statement through its media relations department.

With that, The SUN asked if Alltel had an official media relations department and how it might be reached. Kyle acknowledged that such a department exists, and that we could simply “Google it” to find the number. When asked if he had the number and could provide it, he said he had it, but would not reveal it.

At that point, Kyle — who refused to disclose his last name, the community he worked in, or even what state he was in — said that he would not impart further information, particularly regarding the tower projects, lest it fall into the hands of a disgruntled customer or someone potentially opposed to the towers. He described Alltel’s equipment as very expensive, and preferred not to inform the public of its exact location, again to avoid the possibility of reprisal. With that, Kyle terminated the call.

For now, Alltel is apparently accepting public comments for another couple of weeks, while also working to complete a mandatory environmental assessment. Sometime after, according to Brown, management will determine its construction schedule.

chuck@pagosasun.com