THOMASTON — Voters will be asked to approve leasing Thomaston-owned land for a cellular tower at a special town meeting, likely in January of 2023.

Town representatives say this project will benefit the town and residents, and the land does not abut private property.

U.S. Cellular approached the town with a request to lease town property and construct a cell phone tower, Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy said at the Monday, Oct. 24 Select Board meeting.

The Board authorized negotiations for the lease with U.S. Cellular in September. The Maine Municipal Association then determined the Select Board required voter approval to lease town property to a private business.

The next scheduled town meeting is June, 2023, Fancy said, and U. S. Cellular does not wish to wait that long. He suggested a special town meeting in early January, 2023, instead, though this would be an expense for the town.

A special town meeting will also allow voting on items that should not be delayed until the next June vote, Fancy said, such as funding to add Water Street to the planned Knox Street improvements. Fancy said the Maine Hazard Response Team and FEMA suggested this addition.

The town would have to be very open and transparent with voters about this town meeting, Fancy said. “We have to spend time getting out information about this,” he said. He advised a press release to newspapers about the meeting and advertising it in the town website and newsletter.

The town will also need to hold a public hearing before the vote.

Fancy said the proposed cell tower would provide multiple benefits.

U.S. Cellular does not have good service in Thomaston, he said, so the tower would benefit anyone using that provider.

Fancy said the tower would provide the town “steady income, year after year,” from the lease agreement.

The final rental price as not been determined yet, but Maine law requires U.S. Cellular to pay fair market rates to lease the property according to the Maine Municipal Association.

U.S. Cellular will also allow the town to install a radio repeater on the tower, Fancy said. This would improve first responder radio service, which is currently poor. There would be no charge to install the repeater and it would be far cheaper than the town installing their own tower.

Select Board members Zel Bowman-Laberge and Pete Lammert asked about installing the repeater at other locations.

Installing it in a different location would cost money, Fancy said. “If we can do it for nothing, that is a benefit to the town,” he said.

Thomaston Police Chief Tim Hoppe said the cellular tower was a better location than other options. Leaves cause the signal to scatter, he said, and the tower would be above the tree line.

Hoppe said the current repeater is on top of Watts Hall, and still does not have a great signal.

Once U.S. Cellular has a lease with the town, Fancy said the company can bring the project to the Planning Board for approval.

The Board agreed on a January town meeting but will vote on the matter once a date has been determined.

Fancy previously said the proposed site is a 100-foot by 100-foot area on Anna Bell Lane, just before the Public Works garage on the right-hand side.

Town Manager Kara George has said the tower “won’t be in anybody’s backyard,” as it does not abut any private property.

Tower Engineering Professionals of Raleigh, North Carolina prepared the design plans for U.S. Cellular. The plans include a 195-foot tower with a 4-foot lightening rod, surrounded by a 75-foot by 75-foot chain-link fence.

Plans for the proposed U.S. Cellular tower in Thomaston. Plan prepared by Tower Engineering Professionals

In other business, Lammert said he learned one of Thomaston’s oldest citizens, Arthur Henry, had died recently at 97.

“We owe Art a huge amount of gratitude for what he’s done for this town,” Lammert said.

Other board members said Henry was a good candidate for the town report dedication.

Board Member Sandy Moore said the Thomaston Garden Club had raised $787 for the food pantry that summer through plant sales at the library.

Bowman-Laberge reported the new transfer station project had finally broken ground, and construction should be finished at the end of the year.

The next Thomaston Select Board meeting is Monday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building.

A recording of this meeting can be found at: townhallstreams.com/towns/thomaston_me.