Roanoke Town Council hears school board plan to put dish on Roanoke water tower

The Roanoke Town Council, during its July 21 meeting, was notified by the Huntington County School Corporation that construction could begin to put a satellite dish on top on the existing Roanoke water tower located on school property next to Roanoke Elementary.

The new plan is an alternative to the original proposal of building a stand-alone wireless communications tower.

The Roanoke Board of Zoning Appeals had previously denied the school corporation permission to build the new, taller tower.

That tower was proposed to be a maximum 140 feet tall with a 12-foot base and would have been placed on the east side of the school.

Roanoke BZA President Brian Secor, who was appointed by the council, said there are several reasons why the proposal to build a new tower was denied. He said the room was full for the meeting regarding the project and 15 to 20 spoke against it.

"We were also told that it would be a temporary fix, that the tower would only last about four to five years and then they'd have some other system they'd be using. Since variances go with properties forever, we were very much concerned to bring about a permanent variance," Secor said.

The ground where the water tower stands is owned by the school corporation, but Roanoke Clerk-Treasurer Joanne Kirschner noted that the town pays HCCSC $200 per month for the use of the land. There is a 60-foot limit for towers built in the town, so the corporation had to appeal to the Roanoke BZA for a variance to the height limit.

The purpose of the large satellite dish is to connect Roanoke Elementary to Northwest Elementary through an antenna attached to a tower leg that points directly at the school, which will in turn bridge a gap in the corporation; all other schools are connected to one another except Roanoke.

It will allow Roanoke to wirelessly transmit information as well.

"It would be like having all our schools in Huntington County under one roof," said David McKee, assistant superintendent for business for HCCSC.

McKee said the first choice was a tower next to the school, but once that was denied, the corporation decided to move on and find something else.

"Our main purpose is to provide the best connection for this school so these students can have access and be a part of what we're trying to do; provide a world class education to the students of Huntington," McKee said.

McKee also said the corporation has only 1.5 megabites available now and can upgrade to 200 MB, but he added that will not be enough down the road.

Since the project will most likely be updated within the next eight years, Roanoke Fire Department liaison to the council Troy Karshner wants McKee to invest more money now instead of later. This investment would come in fiber optics, which McKee said will cost a lot more than just adding the antenna.

To attach the satellite dish to the tower, it will cost an estimated $50,000. Adding fiber optics to the mix could increase the project's price to $200,000.

"When we're talking about our kids, our kids' kids and the future of this school, I would think that at some point and time you guys would want to put in some money and invest in our kids' education at least some point down the road versus just the satellite. Like you (McKee) said, you're going to outgrow this; you're only going to get so much. Where do you go from there?" Karshner said.

At that point, McKee agreed with Karshenr but said they cannot afford it and it's not cost effective.

Both McKee and the council said they will wait and see what five years brings in regards to updates in technology.

Centennial Wireless has already had a satellite dish on the tower for several years, the result of contract negotiations and payment to the town of Roanoke.

McKee said the school corporation is in the process of confirming the addition of its tower with the cell phone company, but hopes are high.

"We think it's going to be a clean operation," McKee added.