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Depew cell towers project likely to draw crowd Monday

Depew residents know a company wants to build cell towers in the village.

Blue Wireless originally said it wanted to build four; now, a key village official says the company wants three.

But it is difficult to say for sure because the village hasn’t received a formal plan from Blue Wireless, and some residents say village and company officials haven’t kept them informed.

That is the backdrop for the project’s first public hearing, which is likely to draw a crowd Monday.

“I really question the process,” said Dan Beutler, a village resident who said he believes Depew’s elected officials are trying to rush through the project.

Depew Mayor Jesse Nikonowicz was out of the office Friday and did not return messages left Friday and Saturday. But Tony Fischione, Depew’s code enforcement officer, said the village has done the best it can to make residents aware of a proposal that exists only in theory.

“Right now, everything is on speculation,” Fischione said.

He emphasized the project would be subject to numerous layers of approval once submitted.

Depew has three cell towers now.

This would be Blue Wireless’s second attempt to build in the village. Up State Tower Construction sought permission to build and operate a 150-foot tower on behalf of Blue Wireless at the Advantage Self Storage facility at 2938 Walden Ave. The application was on the agenda of the village Planning Board in May 2015, but Fischione said it was later withdrawn because the site wasn’t conducive to a cellular tower.

Blue Wireless officials returned to a February community forum to present a proposal for four towers that would be constructed on four village-owned locations. Residents weren’t expecting the presentation.

“It did come out of the blue,” Fischione said.

The proposal drew a negative reaction from some residents, who sought more details on the project. They grew frustrated when officials at later Village Board meetings said they didn’t have more to share, said Beutler, who did not attend the original forum but went to later board meetings.

“When you go to a meeting, you get shut down,” he said.

Fischione said the towers, as originally proposed, would be built at the Depew Municipal Building, the village’s Department of Public Works, and the Depew Fire Department’s Northside and West End fire halls. He said Blue Wireless has since scaled back its proposal to three towers, withdrawing the Northside site because it is located in a dense residential neighborhood.

Also, Fischione said, the West End tower now would be built on village-owned property zoned for manufacturing, just down the street from the fire hall.

The project would provide better wireless coverage in Depew, particularly for emergency responders, by filling in village “dead zones,” Fischione said. He said the towers also would generate lease payments for the village, and these would increase if other providers share the towers. Blue Wireless has talked about providing internet service and new cell phones to the village as part of any contract with Depew, Fischione said.

Beutler said fire department members dominate elected positions in village government and are pressing for the project because they would benefit from Blue Wireless’s plans.

Once the companies submit a site plan to the village code enforcement officer, the project at a minimum would need to undergo a state environmental impact assessment, receive a review from the village Planning Board and get Village Board approval.

Blue Wireless and Up State Tower did not respond to messages seeking comment Friday.

The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. Monday in the Municipal Building, 85 Manitou St.