Map of tower site near Big Pond

This map shows the proposed location for a Verizon Wireless cell tower, between Churchill and Great Woods roads on the northwest side of Big Pond in Otis. 

OTIS — After a lull in public debate, officials in Otis plan to take up the proposed cell phone tower near Big Pond. The Select Board is scheduled to discuss the logistics of a balloon test at the site near Churchill and Great Woods roads.

The tower is opposed by residents of the Big Pond area in east Otis. They have called on town officials to halt the project, which the town itself initiated in an effort to improve the infrastructure for emergency communications in the region. 

One bidder responded to a request for proposals in January. That company, the Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless, is offering to pay Otis $18,600 a year to lease a 3,600-square-foot parcel off an access road on the northwest side of the pond. 

Big Pond tower drawing

The project is sketched out in the company's Jan. 28 response to the town, a copy of which was obtained by The Eagle. The company says it seeks to erect a tower in a 60-by-60-foot fenced compound that would be equipped with an emergency generator. 

The tower, so far of unspecified height, would hold equipment for four wireless carriers as well as telecommunications equipment that the town of Otis seeks to place, at its expense.

In its proposal, a Verizon Wireless official says the tower is meant to help communications in a signal-starved area. “The purpose of the installation will be to provide improved coverage and service to the ‘Big Pond’ area of the Town,” wrote Keith Murray, the company's director of network field engineering.

Residents who oppose the tower say they don't want to trade the beauty of their pond's surrounding landscape for improved cell signals. This is the same company that built a new monopole tower at the rear of 877 South St. in Pittsfield, a project that was completed last summer but is still being fought in court by residents of the Alma Street area. 

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

The Select Board's discussion Tuesday, which is item six on the agenda, will focus on the question of the balloon test. Such tests are common in cell tower projects. In them, balloons are floated to tentative heights for a tower, with images capturing the look from different angles. 

Murray's proposal acknowledges that it is "generic" on the tower installation, with the final location for the compound, and the tower's height, to be determined. The site that would hold the tower is listed on the Otis assessors' map as 11C, Parcel 23. 

Verizon Wireless proposes that it lease for the land for five years, with four, five-year extensions with lease fee increases of 3.5 percent at each renewal.

The proposal says it would take three to six months to erect the tower, which would need to secure various town permits and approvals. 

Murray's proposal says that Verizon Wireless would "provide full landscaping to conceal any ground equipment to the maximum extent feasible" and would "maintain the Right-of-Way in a manner that maintains or enhances the scenic beauty of the surrounding land …."

The Select Board meeting starts at 7:30 and will be conducted on Zoom. The meeting ID is 898 7035 9402 and the passcode is 110841.

Big Pond Tower compound

Big Pond Tower compound

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and CommonWealth Magazine.