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Cell Antenna Proposal Raises Preservation Questions In Wallingford

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A proposal to put a cell phone antenna on the Wallingford Town Hall calls for replacing the slate and brick cupola with a fiberglass replica.

The town of Wallingford is considering a proposal to add a cell phone antenna to the historic town hall’s cupola. There are already two antennas in the clock tower, but a proposal to add a third antenna has the attention of the Vermont Department of Historic Preservation.

AT&T submitted a proposal to the Wallingford Select Board to replace the Town Hall cupola with a fiberglass replica to accommodate a third cell antenna. The issue was discussed at the board's March 16 meeting. Meeting minutes state:

Doug Rife from Smartlink, the business overseeing cell tower operations for AT&T, was in attendance to provide an overview of a proposal to replace the Town Hall cupola to fit a third antenna in the clock tower. Mr. Rife provided the board with photo simulations of the new cupola as well as fiberglass material samples. He said AT&T was aware of the historic significance of the building and would work with local, regional and state officials to address concerns.

Also in attendance was James Duggan, from the state Division of Historic Preservation. He cautioned the select board that replacing slate and bricks with fiberglass could result in having the Town Hall removed from the National Register of Historic Places. The minutes state:

He said the building was listed on the National Register for Historic Places and the structure was located in the historic district. He cautioned that removing historic materials could be considered an adverse effect on the building. He said he was not in support of the proposal as it stands. He said replacing slate and bricks with fiberglass was not “like for like” materials. He noted if the town were to pursue the project, it could trigger a federal inquiry and removal from the Historic Register.

The Wallingford Select Board met again April 6, but the issue was not on the meeting agenda. However, minutes from that meeting show that during the public comments portion of the meeting Town Administrator Sandy Switzer stated AT&T is reconsidering its original proposal:

In response to a question regarding the AT &T cell tower proposal, Town Administrator Sandi Switzer said an AT&T representative recently measured the tower in an effort to redesign plans so new antennas could be installed without disturbing the cupola.

Switzer was not available for comment Thursday afternoon and a town employee said no one else was able to comment on the matter.

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