Derby Board Asks PBS to Hold Hearings on VELCO

DERBY - The Derby Selectboard unanimously decided to sign a document addressed to the Public Service Board (PSB) requesting that they hold hearings on the Vermont Electric Company (VELCO) statewide radio project. Beula- Jean Shattuck was absent from the meeting Monday evening. The hope, according to selectboard member Karen Jenne, is that the hearings are held locally for public comment. The motion to sign the document came with some controversy and negotiations. Jenne presented the letter to the board, which included the phrase, "The town wishes to comment further." Selectboard member Laura Dolgin had a problem with the wording. She said she was tired of dealing with the issue and that it should be left in the "capable hands" of the PSB.Jenne pointed out what she considered inaccuracies and inconsistencies in VELCO's attorneys statement on the project. She noted that VELCO representatives said that several hearings were held in the town, which did not happen. Neither the Derby Planning Commission nor the Derby Selectboard ever hold an official public hearing on VELCO's proposal. VELCO attended town meetings several times and the issue was brought up in "other business," even though VELCO was only on the agenda one time. VELCO sought a positive recommendation from the town to replace a telecommunication tower with a larger tower on Nelson Hill Road in Derby. The proposal is part of a statewide project to improve communication between utility workers and possibly between emergency personnel.Derby residents Sharon and Mark Tarbox, who are abbuters to the land where the towers are located, are concerned about potential health side effects from a larger tower in a location.Bob Cooper of Holland is also concerned as his property is located near the antenna farm. Cooper pushed the board to support the request to the PSB to hold official hearings and he stated that he thought the request would have more impact coming from town officials rather than residents.The select board already agreed to send a letter supporting the project but asking for a long-term power density study by an independent firm. At first, Dolgin said she wanted to let the issue go and Jenne was free to send the letter on her own. But Derby resident Scott Warthin said that he wanted the board to support he request as it would not have any effect on the board. The board agreed as long as the line stating that the town wanted to further comment was eliminated. Dolgin said she stands by the letter she already signed but agreed to sign the new letter if it indicated that it was for town residents to comment, not about the selectboard making further comments.VELCO has already sought a Certificate of Public Good for the tower and the the process is currently in the comment phase.To comment on the project, contact the Public Service Board at Vermont Department of Public Service, 112 State Street, Drawer 20, Montpelier, VT 05620-2601, or call 802-828-2811.