Veazie’s Buck Hill site off-limits for communications tower

Posted Feb. 15, 2011, at 11:05 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 16, 2011, at 12:20 p.m.

VEAZIE, Maine — A parcel on Buck Hill on which the state planned to build a 180-foot-tall communications tower is officially off the table.

Until last month, the Buck Hill tower was part of a plan to develop a statewide state-of-the-art digital communications system called the Maine State Communications Network, or MSCommNet.

The system, which consists of 43 strategically placed towers as far north as Debouille Mountain in northern Aroostook County and as far south as Pleasant Mountain in Oxford County, will replace obsolete infrastructure installed in the early 1970s, according to officials from the state Office of Information Technology, which is heading up the project.

Members of the project team say MSCommNet will help address radio “dead spots” around the state, and Veazie public safety officials had hoped to piggyback on it as a way to address dead spots in the community.

The plan to build the tower there, however, generated a great deal of heartburn in town, especially among residents who live near Buck Hill, where some of the town’s most scenic views and priciest real estate are located.

Town councilors also opposed it. After the last of several public hearings on the matter, they voted 5-0 last month to impose a series of strict rules that in effect made it impossible for the state to built the proposed tower on the Buck Hill site, owned by the Orono-Veazie Water District.

Tom Driscoll, outreach coordinator for the state information technology office, said the state has terminated its lease with the water district.

In an interview Monday, Driscoll said the MSCommNet project team now is conducting “litmus tests” in an effort to identify a site or sites that look promising in terms of engineering.

The new site must be within a couple of miles of Buck Hill so that links can be established with surrounding towers in Passadumkeag, Lincoln, Garland and Searsport, a project team member said in December.

Despite the setback in Veazie, Driscoll said the overall project is proceeding on schedule.

“We’re now redoubling our efforts to find another site,” he said.

The team’s deadline for completing the system is the fall of 2012, Driscoll said.

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