A project to improve cell phone coverage in the up-Island towns is moving forward after a meeting between service providers and NStar this week took place to measure poles for the distributive antenna system (DAS).

If all goes as planned, up-Island residents could see improved cell coverage by July 1. Chilmark executive secretary Timothy Carroll met with Verizon, Comcast and NStar Wednesday morning to evaluate what needed to be changed on the existing poles in order to incorporate the system.

The Chilmark selectmen sent a letter to NStar this week seeking cooperation from the company to use their distribution poles and personnel to help install the new system. The project requires many miles of underground fiber to be installed on NStar poles under a pole attachment agreement between NStar and American Tower Corporation, the company contracted to install the system.

“The project brings much-needed communication services for residents, visitors and public safety responders in our communities,” the letter says. “Large areas of Chilmark [and Aquinnah] suffer inadequate or a complete absence of wireless communications services. Many citizens rely solely on wired phone service.”

The project is a joint effort between Chilmark and Aquinnah, where the DAS system is already installed but waiting for an agreement from service providers.

“One of the hold-ups has been that NStar came back with make-ready poles that were too expensive,” Mr. Carroll said at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, adding they needed to find something that was appropriately sized and affordable. “It’s looking good that this is going to go forward,” Mr. Carroll said.The selectmen hope to have an installation schedule in two weeks time.

In other business, selectmen were notified that the town’s insurance company has settled a wrongful death suit on behalf of the tri-town ambulance service. Leigh Carroll was found asleep in a car by the side of the road in July 2005, and when the service’s paramedics responded and transported him to the ambulance, Mr. Carroll became extremely combative. He suffered cardiac arrest during the transport, and was pronounced dead at the hospital. The settlement details were not made public.

And the town board of health has submitted a plan to the state for dealing with a water quality issue at the Chilmark Community Center. Total coliform was found in several water samples at the community center, but not at the neighboring school or library. Total coliform is an indicator bacteria; tests have shown that e coli and fecal contaminants are not present.

“We have total coliforms in there somewhere that aren’t coming straight from 70 feet underground,” town health inspector Marina Lent said yesterday afternoon. “We’ve replaced the filter and hope it will solve the problem.”

by Remy Tumin