Swartswood cell tower saga continues

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:28

    SWARTSWOOD — The Swartswood cell tower saga continued on Monday night with residents asking why the Nextel tower is being built for a network that is being phased out by Sprint, who owns Nextel. For months now, meetings have been held regarding whether or not the 150-foot tall cell tower will be built behind the Swartswood Fire House on Route 622. "It appears that Sprint, which owns Nextel, is in the process of phasing out the iDen network which is what this tower is being built for," said Ken Bradley, head of the No Swartswood Tower citizen's group. Bradley said the iDen network can't accommodate the speed that today's mobile customers expect. "We've found that Sprint will be going to its own network in 2013, so why even pursue building this tower?" asked Bradley. Another issue addressed at the meeting was safety. The Nextel tower that currently stands in Fredon is on a 30-acre lot. One in Hampton is on 119 acres and one in Stillwater, atop Mount Holly Road, is on 55 acres. "They're on all that acreage for safety reasons," Bradley said. "Putting this one behind the Swartswood Fire Department on just a 200 by 307 (foot) lot seems it would be a big safety compromise." A Nextel radio frequency engineer said that only a small portion of the town would not be covered with cellphone reception. Bradley and his constituents disagreed. "When you look at a map, 50 percent of the town would not be covered." However, according to the map the major roads that go through the area would have coverage. The citizens also urged the builders of the proposed tower to consider other venues where there is more property surrounding the structure. The meeting ended with more issues having been brought to the table but no solutions. Bradley said the board would need time to digest the new information brought by concerned citizens and Nextel. "[The cell tower] would also add a very techy monstrosity smack in the middle of a very bucolic setting and extremely close to Swartswood State Park, which generates a lot of tourism for the area," said Bradley. The next hearing on the issue is set for Dec. 20 at the Stillwater Township Elementary School.