The leaders of a campaign to pressure Verizon to join the tower at George J. Mitchell Field have turned in a petition with 817 signatures.
The signatures were accompanied by a letter of support from the Harpswell Board of Selectmen.
“Not only residents of Harpswell, but thousands of visitors to the Harpswell area, who are part of Verizon’s loyal customer base, would benefit greatly from improving Verizon’s wireless communications in Harpswell,” the board said in the letter. “In addition, we know that there are significant numbers of commercial and recreational boaters in and around the waters of Harpswell who would be better served by having Verizon equipment on the Mitchell Field tower.
“Notably, Verizon’s improved cell coverage would benefit public safety outcomes for its customers who are Harpswell residents, visitors, boaters and first responders, to ensure that they are able to convey and receive information more reliably on their cell phones during emergency situations.”
The board unanimously approved the letter on Thursday, Oct. 27.
“We strongly endorse the action requested by the petitioners, and urge Verizon officials to act favorably and quickly on their request,” the board said in the letter.
The petition mentions the importance of cell service for emergency communications, as well as Harpswell’s aging population and its status as a vacation destination.
Paul Kittle, of Orr’s Island, spearheaded the petition drive. Kittle told the select board that volunteers collected about half of the signatures at the Recycling Center and Transfer Station. Others signed at restaurants and stores that displayed the petition. Kittle said the signatories include both residents and visitors.
Dennis Wilkins, of Bailey Island, has worked with Kittle and lobbied Verizon on the issue. Wilkins said in an email that a Verizon executive, Stephanie Lee, told him “it’s a full ‘GO’ for Verizon to improve the coverage in Harpswell.”
Lee did not provide a timeline, but suggested that such improvement could take a matter of months or up to two years, according to Wilkins.
In July, the Anchor reported the Verizon would not join the new tower at Mitchell Field, despite complaints of poor reception. The report spurred Kittle and Wilkins to action.
State Rep. Jay McCreight, of Harpswell, connected Wilkins with Lee, the Verizon executive, who soon told Wilkins that Verizon had reversed course and made Harpswell its top priority in Maine, according to Wilkins’ account of their conversations.
Verizon has declined to confirm those comments, but a spokesperson said in September that the carrier is “committed to exploring new ways to enhance the network experience for our Harpswell customers.”
Verizon Communications Inc. is the largest wireless phone company in the country.