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Restarted New Canaan Panel To Look At Cell Service

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Improving cellphone coverage, reducing power outages and protecting valuable open spaces are among the reasons town officials want to restart two long-dormant commissions.

The Board of Selectmen met Wednesday night with residents interested in serving on the town’s utilities and conservation commissions, all in an effort to consider possible rules to improve service and quality of life.

The state of cellphone coverage has been an issue for many years, with residents complaining about a lack of service outside of downtown. It’s also a major safety concern, said Geoffrey Pickard, who lives on Oenoke Ridge Road. Pickard has long advocated for the town to help wireless carriers in identifying locations for antenna sites. After major losses in power and recent vehicle crashes, Pickard said the town should consider the welfare of residents in addressing the problem. “Whether we like it or not, cellphones are here to stay,” he said.

Selectman Nick Williams agreed with the safety aspect but also said residents should be able to make calls in other parts of town regardless. “It’s a safety issue as well as a convenience issue,” he said.

The Utilities Commission may also be charged with investigating solutions to power issues, including the idea of placing power lines underground. The concept has received more traction among residents after Hurricane Irene in August and a freak snowstorm in October felled trees and knocked power out for many homes for about a week. “I’m not an expert, (and) we’ve heard it could cost millions. Bu we should have the Utilities Commission look into it,” First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III said.

Jill Bernhard, a member of the Conservation Commission, a group that hasn’t met for more than a year, said she wants to stay involved and help develop a master plan for land in town. “I see land as a strength” for New Canaan, she said. “It should be proactively protected. It’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.”

Mallozzi said he’d like to appoint members to the commissions by Feb. 20.

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