PENNINGTON GAP - While a cell phone tower apparently makes a delightful home for a flock of buzzards, it most definitely spoils the neighborhood for the residents around a tower in Pennington Gap, and town leaders are now trying to find a way to address the situation.
During the Pennington Gap Town Council's January meeting on Tuesday, Town Manager Tina Rowe said she was recently approached by Dr. Bahman Payman, who lives next to the tower north of town, about doing something to control the birds.
Rowe said she contacted the tower's owner, Alltel, to see if the company could do something to scare away the birds. However, she said, the company told her that federal regulations prevent them from doing anything. In fact, she said, an earlier request to install a fake owl to scare away the birds is not even allowed under federal regulations.
Rowe said she has contacted the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to see if they can offer any other advice that would help control the birds, but she has not yet received a response. After a brief discussion, council members instructed Rowe to pursue that angle further and to see if she can come up with any other solutions.
After Councilman Mike Reuille arrived late for the meeting, he again brought up the issue and said the birds are so numerous that they cover all available space on the tower. He said when one flies away, another is circling to take its place.
"And while they circle, they do their business," he said.
He suggested that wire spikes could be installed at close intervals on the tower so that it would be uncomfortable for the birds to rest on the structure. Mayor Jimmy Smallwood suggested that Rowe check with other towns to see if they have similar problems with birds on towers, but Reuille countered that most likely other towns won't have such a problem.
"Most towns care enough about their citizens not to allow such in their neighborhoods," he commented.
After hearing reports on various projects in town, council members authorized engineers to proceed with structural engineering plans on the former Lee Theater building and agreed to apply for a Slemp Foundation grant to help finance that project; authorized application for grants for several other projects including a planned greenway, an all-terrain vehicle trail system, renovations at Leeman Field, and some small water and sewer projects; and authorized engineers to advertise for bids on concession stands at Leeman Field. A public hearing for the greenway grant application was scheduled for Jan. 30 at 6 p.m.
Council members also appointed a committee to study wholesale water contracts and charged the group with making recommendations to the council to standardize all contracts as much as possible.
Councilman C.R. Wynn was reappointed to the town's Planning Commission after he reported that the commission recently met and voted that it would like to pursue zoning the town. When Councilman Larry Fish asked if town residents favor zoning, Smallwood quickly responded no, but Wynn said the commission has to put together a plan that residents can see before they can make an informed decision on whether or not they favor zoning.
Council members discussed at length, but took no action on, ways to prevent vandalism at Leeman Field and ways to enforce a property cleanup and trash ordinance. The meeting ended with a closed session to discuss personnel.