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New telecom equipment platform planned for Mount Tom range; state wants more info

A new tower being installed on Mount Tom is seen from Holyoke Street in Easthampton in 2012.

A new tower being installed on Mount Tom is seen from Holyoke Street in Easthampton in 2012. Purchase photo reprints »

MetroPCS, a mobile network provider owned by T-Mobile, is proposing to install new telecommunications equipment and relocate existing equipment onto a new 9-by-10-foot steel platform. The platform would hold an equipment cabinet and sit atop supports that do not penetrate the ground, according to a review of the company’s plans.

The work also includes building a new ice bridge from the platform to the lattice tower, which is owned and leased by SBA Communications Corporation of Boca Raton, Fla., a company that owns and operates towers throughout the United States and Central and South America.

The property is owned by Holyoke Gas & Electric Co. and the planned work high above the cities Easthampton and Holyoke is within the confines of the existing tower farm along the eastern peak of the range.

“There’s no new antennae going up,” Thomas W. French, assistant director of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said this week. “It’s a cabinet with a platform standing on four non-penetrating supports. It’s well within the fenced area of the tower complex.”

Like most projects of this sort on the range, the proposed installation has triggered a review by the agency’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program because the work falls within a priority habitat.

“They are in the habitat of a variety of rare species,” French said, noting that protection of the timber rattlesnake is of particular concern in the area.

In a natural resource review, Richard Bolton, a wetland scientist with EBI Consulting, a company representing MetroPCS, wrote that the proposed work “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the state-protected timber rattlesnake.”

French said the state agency is likely to sign off on the project with minor conditions, but still wants information before it does so. “We told them they need to provide us with more details,” he said. “We’re still waiting for that.”

In 2009, a different company built an unauthorized concrete pad at the site without the state’s knowledge, though the pad was apparently never used.

The project under review is being built on the same site and Metro PCS has agreed to remove the pad since it has no need for it, according to French.

Holyoke city officials, who approved installation of a 195-foot lattice tower erected by Holyoke Gas & Electric further along the range last year, said the MetroPCS project does not fall under their purview.

“From our standpoint, we don’t have any regulatory review over it,” said Holyoke Conservation Director Andrew Smith.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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