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Ligonier residents oppose cell phone tower

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By Jewels Phraner
Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
 

If Ligonier Borough Council wasn't sure how residents felt about the proposed location for a cell phone tower behind the police department, they know now.

After Verizon Wireless officials approached the borough last month, council held a special meeting to gather public input. When only one resident showed up, council members began the negotiation process to lease a 20-by-40 plot of land behind the Fairfield Street municipal building for nearly $1 million over the antenna's 30-year life.

But on April 11, resident Ray Noble presented a petition with 140 signatures opposing the tower. He said he gathered them in about one day. Noble's insurance office sits next door to the police department.

“The cell phone tower would be pretty much in my backyard,” he said. “This antenna will be seen from more places than the Ligonier Diamond. It will have an immediate effect on the historic ambiance of Ligonier.”

Council members thanked Noble for his hard work.

“I thought this is something big that the community would want to weigh in on, and then we walk in here (for the special meeting) and find no one was here. It's just kind of disheartening,” Councilwoman Kim Shaffer said.

“This is what we were hoping — some response to find out what the community wants,” added President Buddy Helterbran.

Councilman Jim McDonnell said that although he was glad to consider the proposal — especially with the revenue such a lease would generate — he did not want to see it in the borough.

McDonnell called for a vote to nix the plan altogether, but council members voted 5-2 to keep the option on the table.

“We have to think about the taxpayers and what will be most beneficial to them, as well as the ambiance of the town — which is one of the things that brought me here 18 years ago,” said Helterbran, who voted to remain open to the proposed tower.

A deal has not been reached with Verizon Wireless, indicating to some council members that “it's a dead issue,” Councilman Bob Bell said.

“If we do get a proposal, we will make sure everyone knows about the meeting and that way we can make an informed decision based on everyone's input,” Helterbran said.

Council members also approved an updated version of the Fort Ligonier Days ordinance. Changes to the law that governs the three-day annual festival include prohibiting garage sales, peddling permits and temporary tents set up on sidewalks, and steeper fines for violations.

Fort Ligonier Days committee co-chairman Jack McDowell said the amendments were inspired by people who stretched the interpretation of the law.

The Fort Ligonier Days Committee “told us what loopholes needed to be tied up, and hopefully we tied them” with this ordinance, Shaffer said.

Council approved the dates for the 2013 festival: Oct. 11-13.

In addition, council approved:

• The use of the inside of Ligonier Diamond for the Ligonier Valley YMCA's Rider Cup, a 24-hour stationary bike team competition Sept. 27-28.

• A temporary banner advertising Ligonier Valley Library's Novel Art event, a May 3 fundraiser where artwork made from books will be auctioned.

• A change in location for Boy Scout Troop 372 to sell Christmas trees. The new location will be in the grassy lot at the intersection of West Loyalhanna and Hadley streets near Fat Daddy's.

• The use of the Diamond for Ligonier Volunteer Hose Co. No. 1's fundraiser, “Fire and Ice.” The July 6 event is meant to raise awareness of all the fire department does for Ligonier Valley residents, firefighter Jeff Craig said.

• Support for Boy Scout Drew Neiderhiser's plans to expand and repair deteriorating batting cages at the Little League fields, in memory of Coach Kevin Coleman, who died in Akron, Ohio, in April 2011.

“Kevin Coleman was a good friend of mine, and it's an honor for that batting cage to be named after him,” Councilman Tom Freeman said.

Neiderhiser said the $40,000 project, to be funded by the Ligonier Rotary Club, will be completed by September.

• Support for the borough Zoning Hearing Board's decision to allow property owner Ruth Conrad to divide her lot into two parcels.

Jewels Phraner is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or jphraner@tribweb.com.

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