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Verizon Attains Extension to Replace Cell Antennas

Trustees: Work must begin by December 1

Representatives from Verizon came before the Mineola Village Board of Trustees on Aug. 10 after the five trustees called into question reasons behind the request by the telecommunications company for a second work permit extension.

According to Building Department Supervisor Dan Whalen, the permit is now over a year old, having been granted a previous extension of 180 days for work being done on cellular antennas located on the transmission tower at Betty Lane and Jericho Turnpike.

Eric Helman of Garden City-based Amato Law Group PLLC said that the reason for the request to extend the permit for an additional 180 days was that “the contractor made a mistake initially” and installed the wrong type of wireless antenna atop the structure.

Despite the permit being issued by the village in August 2010, the original work was not done until December. Helman would not confirm nor deny if work was delayed by the ongoing strike by Verizon workers.

“It took nearly half a year for the work to actually be done initially,” Helman said. “and then they made the mistake of putting up the wrong antenna. They’re not consistent with the design purposes of the site.”

The wireless antennas are located on a LIPA transmission tower, which, according to Helman, has to be “powered down” before any work can be done, and “that involves a fairly extensive authorization process.” LIPA will not power down the structure during periods of high use – such as summer – since it is tied to the power grid.

“They’re telling us that it can be powered down by October,” Helman said, referring to LIPA.

Mayor Scott Strauss along with the rest of the board found it difficult to believe that Verizon only recently learned there was a problem with the antennas. He was confused as to why this couldn’t have been done a year ago.

“You had January, February, March, April, May, June, July,” Strauss said. “You only came up in July and realized that they were the wrong antennas?”

Helman responded that the realization came in the “late winter/early spring” and by then it was too late to swap out the antennas.

“By the time the process was going on with LIPA, the electricity usage had already increased,” Helman. “They weren’t able to power it down in time.”

“I know quite a few engineers and if something doesn’t work from a technical standpoint, they know immediately,” Trustee Lawrence Werther said. “I’ve taken a ride down to that area and I’ve seen the cell equipment and none of these cells go directly into any household. No household would be able to withstand that type of power.”

“It doesn’t pass the sniff test,” Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said, “because... as soon as you put those antennas up and you turned them on, someone somewhere has got to figure out “oops, those aren’t the right ones, get back up there tomorrow.”

The board granted the permit extension with the stipulation that work has to begin within 90 days. Helman’s main concern was that Verizon is relying on LIPA to complete the swap out and asked for the end of November as the work start deadline.

Helman continued that both parties would wait to replace the cell antennas when electricity usage is low on a given day. Furthermore, it would not affect any nearby residents.

“The impact is much less when we wait,” he said. “It’s tied into the grid, it would not affect residents locally. That’s to my understanding. I’m far from an expert in terms of how the grid works.”

“I just feel that somewhere along the line someone’s dragging their feet unnecessarily,” Mayor Strauss said, adding that there would be no further extensions and Verizon would have to reapply for another permit if it went beyond the time granted. The fee for the permit is $250.

“We want you to be aware of the fact that we’re watching,” Pereira said. “It’s not about the permit as much as it is that we hope the applicant, Verizon, in this case, we expect that the work will be done when it was supposed to. Now, we have an extension.”

Before approving the extension, the board agreed that this would be the last extension granted to Verizon on this issue.