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195-foot cell tower nearly up but no service until June 2014

The first 120 feet of the 195-foot telecommunications tower atop Morse Mountain in Northumberland was in place at Monday morning's press conference, but it will soon be completed. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
October 23, 2013
GROVETON — It's nearly done but the long-awaited cell tower on Morse Mountain won't be operational until June.

The first 120 feet of the shiny steel 195-foot telecommunications tower, some two miles north of Groveton High School, stood tall in the bright sun on Monday morning during a press conference.

The tower will soon be topped out and an equipment shed placed on the cement pad already in place behind the barbed-wire-topped chain link fence.

AT&T, the only major carrier that has signed up to use the new facility, will likely not be ready to install its cell calling equipment until June 2014, however, partly because this location is one of a number of new facilities that are designed to "talk" to one another.

Equipment used to allow PSNH crews to communicate with dispatchers will soon be put on the tower, however, and area fire and law enforcement communication gear could soon follow. Plans to install equipment to strengthen an existing network that provides Internet service have also been made, likely to take place in the spring.

PSNH spokesman Roy Duddy pointed out, however, that placing a cell tower along Route 3 in Northumberland had not been in any of the four major carriers 10-year master plans.

The grants and a friendly push from stakeholders made a big difference, Duddy explained, speeding up construction of a cell tower by at least a decade.

The tower and 1.8-mile gravel road were funded by grants from Northern Pass and PSNH, plus federal grants from the Northern Border Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Utility poles for power are already in place on the length of the road.

The tower and associated equipment is built on land owned by the Red Dam Conservancy LLC (the Wemyss family of Groveton) on which there is a 20-year lease.

The tower will provide cell coverage and connect with other Wireless Linc program towers erected under the auspices of the Northern Community Investment Corp. (NCIC) to provide broadband services to area residents, explained Jon Freeman, NCIC president of the Northern Community. The expansion of cell phone and broadband services will enhance both public safety and economic development, he explained.

"The future is getting brighter for Groveton," he said. "Area businesses will see tremendous benefit from this project. It's difficult to compete in today's economy without cell service and high-speed Internet. Now with the structure nearly complete, our goal is in sight."

Gary Long, who heads up the Northern Pass Transmission project initiative, said that NPT had looked for a project that could help Groveton and Cos County to recover from the loss of much of its manufacturing base by helping it to attract new businesses and opportunities.

"We're delighted to be part of this important initiative," Long said. "This is a collaborative effort," he added, noting that it was first conceived in a brainstorming session at PSNH headquarters in Manchester.

Allen Bouthillier, owner-operator of A.B. Logging of Lancaster, said that completion of the road-building project had taken 8,000 pounds of explosives, 1,100 work hours of more than 20 employees, and 12,000 cubic yards of ledge, all of which served to pump some $100,000 back into the local economy. Horizons Engineering of Littleton did the detailed engineering and permitting work.

John Nuchilly, an avid hiker of Durham who works in the telecommunications division of Northeast Utilities, laid out the route of the new gravel road, taking into account its very steep slopes as well as the presence of the 24-inch Portland Natural Gas Transmission System pipeline.

An oxbow on the Connecticut River is one of the most scenic features that can be seen from the road.

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