QUESTION: I heard a new large cell phone tower was going in up at Cold Springs. Any info on it? What companies will be on it? What service area?

ANSWER: Epic Communications on behalf of AT&T filed with Tuolumne County in August 2018 to build a 128-foot tower, which would be located on Highway 108 north of the intersection with Lassen Drive in Cold Springs. The planning commission approved the project in December.

John Lupo, who owns the property next door to the two-acre site owned by Cold Springs Development Co. appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors.

In two lengthy submissions, Lupo said the development would create round-the-clock noise and harm the aesthetics of the local area, which consists of a few one-story commercial buildings. He also claimed the Planning Commission’s decisions violated the Tuolumne County General Plan and zoning requirements and that an environmental impact statement was needed under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Lupo suggested seven other sites that would be more conducive to such a project, several of which were adjacent to property owned by Cold Springs Development.

Lupo also criticized the plan’s construction.

“The fact that this massive structure will be ‘disguised as a mono-pine’ will not make the tower ‘blend in with the surrounding environment,’ it is more like putting lipstick on a pig,’” he wrote.

The Tuolumne County Supervisors turned down his appeal and granted approval for the project in February.

Lupo has filed a civil lawsuit to block the project.

Quincy Yaley, the assistant director of development for the county’s Community Resource Agency, said the agency looked at all aspects of the plan and determined it to meet county and state requirements.

“It had a significant amount of public support,” she said.

Not only will it bring cell and high-speed internet to the community, it can also be used by first responders in emergencies.

Yaney said the specific coverage depends on topography and line of sight.

“In-building coverage will improve within 1/2 mile of the tower, in-transit service will extend north and south along the Highway 108 corridor, into the community of Cold Springs, and along Frasier Flat Road, and outdoor service will be available well beyond one mile of the tower,” she said.

She also said all new cell towers are required to allow other cell phone providers to rent space. This particular tower has room for two other companies.

The federal government is funding cell towers in underserved communities across the country, causing an increase in the number of applications the county has seen since 2017. In all, 11 towers have been approved and two are pending — one in Quartz and the other in East Sonora, she said.

QUESTION: I was at Dodge Ridge and saw a snow plow marked “County of Tuolumne” being used to plow their parking lot. Are we taxpayers actually plowing the access road and parking lots for a private business, or is there some agreement that Dodge Ridge is paying for the equipment and labor costs?

ANSWER: David Gonzalves, who heads up the county’s Community Resource Agency, said Dodge Ridge leases a grader for $1 a year to plow Dodge Ridge Road, which is owned by the county.

“I am unaware if they are using this in any other way,” he said.

Jenni Smith, Dodge Ridge general manager, said the resort pays for labor and fuel to run the county-owned snow plow on the county road, which is called the loop. They do not use the grader for their parking lot, she said.

Sounds like a win-win.

QUESTION: Curious how many people were interviewed for the interim Tuolumne County economic development director position.

ANSWER: Supervisor John Gray said the interviews took place in executive session and therefore he is not at liberty to answer the question.

“It would best that you contact (County) Counsel. Any matter discussed in closed session is confidential until a reportable decision is made by the board. To do otherwise is a violation of law,” he said in an email.

Sarah Carrillo, Tuolumne County Counsel, confirmed Gray’s comment.

“You are seeking confidential closed-session information, and I am not at liberty to disclose that information to you, as that would be a violation of the law,” she said in an email. “As you probably know, under the Brown Act personnel closed sessions are confidential and only final action is required to be reported out. There was no final action of the board and thus there was no report out.”

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