The cell tower, which will establish better cell signal for Orr’s and Bailey islands, will be built in Mitchell Field on the site of an old water tower that was demolished in September 2018.  File

HARSPWELL — Harpswell selectmen unanimously approved a potential 40-year agreement with Massachusetts-based Blue Sky Towers last week, giving the company the green light to build and operate a wireless communications tower at Mitchell Field.

According to the approved lease, the tower will not exceed 200 feet tall, so it doesn’t need to be equipped with lights to warn aircraft. It will be built near the site of the old water tower, which was demolished in September 2018, but the precise location will be determined by the Harpswell Planning Board later this month.

The initial lease is for 10 years, with the option to renew it three times in 10-year increments.

Once built, the cell tower will establish stronger cell phone service on Orr’s and Bailey islands, something that section of Harpswell desperately needs, said Kevin Johnson, select board chair.

“People in town have been demanding better cell service for years, especially now that more and more people are getting rid of their landline phones” said Johnson. “This opportunity came along and we had to grab it. I think it’ll be good for the town.”

Don Miskill, the Mitchell Field steward, said last July that while Harpswell has a few cell towers, they don’t provide complete coverage and leave sections of Orr’s and Bailey islands without a good cell signal. The two islands are difficult to cover completely because they’re on the end of one of the long, narrow peninsulas that make up Harpswell, which jut into Casco Bay.

There were no public comments about the cell tower from Harpswell residents Thursday, but Miskill asked whether the electromagnetic radiation from the tower will be harmful to those living nearby.

Town Planner Mark Eyerman, said the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t allow municipalities to consider the potential health effects of radiation when deciding whether to approve a cell tower.

“This is because there are differing scientific opinions as to what the health implications are to being exposed to radio waves,” said Eyerman. “The Federal Communications Commission has analyzed the situation from a scientific standpoint and they say it’s not a health risk.”

Mitchell Field sits on 112 acres on the west side of Harpswell Neck Road. It served as a former fuel depot for the Brunswick Naval Air Station. The depot closed in 1992, and Harpswell acquired the land in 2001.

According to Blue Sky Towers’ license, the company will pay the town an initial semi-annual rent of $11,100, which will later increase to $22,200 per year on its third semi-annual rent payment, according to Kristi Eiane, Harpswell town administrator. The rent will increase by 2% per year over the life of the lease including any extensions.

The town will also receive a one-time payment of $35,000 when the tower is up and operational as well as a payment of $35,000 each time an additional nationwide wireless broadband carrier, such as AT&T or Verizon Wireless, locates on the tower after the first carrier. Eyerman said AT&T is prepared to become the first tenant on the tower once it has been built.

The town also has the option to install emergency communications equipment on the tower.

Eyerman said the town has been looking to establish a wireless communications tower in Mitchell Field for years and is pleased the town found a “reputable tower construction firm” to build and maintain it.

“So far it has been the best outcome that the town could’ve hoped for,” he said.

Blue Sky Towers could not be reached for comment Monday. It’s unclear when construction could begin and finish.

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