Despite the fact the Town of Purcellville's request for proposals to build a new cell tower at the town's wastewater treatment plant did not receive any responses, Town Manager David Mekarski said discussions about the idea are ongoing.
Mekarski said a “number of individuals” who were intending to submit an RFP – but did not do so – are scheduled to talk with town staff about the concept over the next few days.
“We are asking prospective companies to say why they didn't respond. We are learning that more responses may have come in if we took the initial step of asking for a proof of concept or RFI with an open-ended response, then we can see how the industry responds,” Mekarski said.
Providing additional cellular coverage in Purcellville is a long-discussed issue for Town Council. In September 2017, council members discussed the advantages of investing in an additional cell tower. Councilman Nedim Ogelman said at the time the “health, safety and welfare aspects of this are what is most compelling,” and residents have said the dead spot in town is a safety issue.
Since then, council members have discussed how ongoing maintenance on the water tower has reduced the town's cell coverage, causing the issue to come to the forefront of discussion once again.
In January, Ogelman again raised the possibility of building a cell tower at the wastewater treatment plant in order to improve cell service and utilize the revenue as a reinvestment into paying off the debt on the town's wastewater treatment plant, easing some of the burden on the escalating utility rates.
Vice Mayor Ryan Cool and Councilman Ted Greenly supported the idea of a new tower at the wastewater treatment facility.
Mayor Kwasi Fraser has recused himself from discussions because he works for one of the carriers.
The town's director of public works, Buster Nicholson, worked with SKT Solutions to prepare a feasibility study to evaluate building the tower.
The proposed tower could be 125 to 175 feet tall and would be located approximately 1.4 miles from the existing water tower, serving the southern end of town.
Greenly last week told the Times-Mirror he believes the cell tower remains a viable project, but he said he is not in favor of spending town funds to build it, and he does not agree with having the town own the tower.
“Once the main tower is completed and new, upgraded carrier equipment is installed, I hope this problem will resolve itself,” Greenly said.
Mekarski said with ongoing discussions he believes there is a strong interest from carriers, but revenue projections may have been “too ambitious.”
“We will see if the individuals can respond with a concept that is best for them,” he said.
He said there is a proposed water tower in Round Hill -- which is nearly five miles from the Purcellville site and is located at a higher elevation -- that is also getting interest from phone carriers and may alleviate the problems with lack of coverage in Purcellville.
An update on the cell tower proposal will be discussed at the next council meeting Dec. 10.