An ongoing discussion over improving cell service in Sag Harbor has been as easy to understand as a garbled call, but now it appears temporary relief is on the way.
Village officials said this week that Verizon, which had proposed placing a temporary cell antenna, or COW — for Cell On Wheels — at the WLNG radio station on Redwood Road, has agreed to move forward with that plan.
The Village Board was ready to sign off on that project last month, but Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy informed the board that Elizabeth Vail, the village attorney advising the board on the project, had determined that a public hearing should be held first. Hearing that, Verizon apparently got cold feet and said it would hold off until a permanent plan to rebuild the station’s 175-foot tower and add cell antennas to it could be filed.
Other board members, most notably Trustees James Larocca and Thomas Gardella, had argued that the village could move forward with the proposal on an emergency basis. And after some behind-the-scenes discussion, the board was advised the COW could be placed on the radio station’s property without requiring either a public hearing or a building permit, because it is literally on wheels and exempt from the village review.
Mr. Gardella said it was his understanding the project could be ready to go in as little as two weeks.
Although board members this week had different takes on what led to the impasse, they all agreed that cell service in the village is lousy and needs to be improved.
“God forbid, you’re in the IGA and you try to call home to ask if we need milk,” said Mayor Mulcahy. “You’re better off to shout.”
Providing good cell service is a necessity, according to Trustee Aidan Corish. “It’s gone beyond a luxury,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have land lines anymore.”
In a conversation with a reporter, Trustee Bob Plumb had to stand still in his home or risk becoming unintelligible.
“I’ve had more people complain about cell service than anything else since I joined the board,” said Mr. Larocca.
When the board held a work session on July 22, Bill Evans, one of WLNG’s owners, joined the Zoom meeting to ask if it would consider another option. Instead of a COW, which would come with a 60-foot tower secured by guy wires, he said Verizon could also bring in another temporary structure, one that would be built on a pedestal and have a 100-foot tower. He said the second option was preferable because that structure could remain in place when work begins to rebuild the station’s tower. But board members rejected that idea like most cell carriers drop calls.
Mr. Evans did not return calls seeking comment this week.