Photo illustration of proposed cell tower in Hedley

Photo illustration of proposed cell tower in Hedley

Phone company hasn’t hung up on Hedley

Regional district will poll residents to see if they're interested in having Telus erect a tower to provide cell service

Telus hasn’t hung up yet on the possibility of providing wireless phone and data service to Hedley.

Support for the service, which requires a 20-metre tower in a residential area, will be gauged by an Aug. 10 poll set up by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, from which the company had been seeking support.

In March, however, the RDOS board delayed its decision to allow time to poll approximately 350 residents and allow the company to examine alternate sites. Days later, the company told the RDOS it would not proceed with the installation.

“It wasn’t that I was protesting; I was just trying to get a read on the residents,” said Angelique Wood, the RDOS director for the area.

“And there has been a huge amount of conflict and frustration and strife ever since in Hedley, both by people who want it and don’t want it,”

Wood noted there have been petitions for and against the tower, but neither was definitive, so it’s hoped the RDOS-administered poll will provide a legitimate snapshot of public opinion on the tower.

If the poll shows the public is against it, she continued, the issue will be put to rest. If the public is in favour of it, the RDOS will reopen talks with the company.

Spokesperson Shawn Hall said Telus would listen.

“If the regional district were interested in us coming back and putting a tower up at that site, we would certainly take a look at that and consider building it some time in the next few years,” he said.

Hall said the RDOS approached Telus back in 2011 about the prospect of providing cell service in Hedley, so the company began studying the issue and settled on the Scott Avenue site where it already has equipment and would save the “several hundred thousand dollars” needed to buy and service an alternate site.

“After we’d gone through that process and invested a significant number of man-hours and money in planning, suddenly the regional district came back and asked us to look at alternate sites,” Hall said.

“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that alternate sites are simply not possible.”

He added that there is a public misperception that Telus is required to provide service to Hedley under a $10-billion rural infrastructure deal it has with the province, but Hall said that’s not the case because the tower in question isn’t intended to provide highway coverage.

Wood, who’s still undecided on the tower, said there’s also a misperception that she’s “taken an anti-cell stand, and it’s not true.

“My job is to represent the people of the area, and when I asked for an opportunity to conduct a poll in the first place, that was my intention.”