Over the past two years, Sarah Combs, Sugar Grove community advocate and website administrator has actively pursued the establishment of cellular services in the community along the way garnering support from the Rye Valley Community Council, Sugar Grove Lifesaving Crew, Sugar Grove Volunteer Fire Department, local elected officials and local government. The result? Sugar Grove will finally be getting a cellular tower according to a recent resolution made by the Smyth County Board of Supervisors.
Efforts to establish cellular service in Sugar Grove are nothing new. More than 10 years ago, former supervisor Darlene Neitch began these efforts and carried them on throughout her term. Although she was extremely diligent with her efforts, service was not established at that time. Combs picked up these efforts on behalf of the community in July 2013 reaching out to local elected officials and bringing this issue once again to the attention of current Rye Valley Supervisor Rick Blevins and the Smyth County Board of Supervisors, this time as a more urgent concern citing safety issues and a complete lack of service in a time when a lack of these services is almost unacceptable. These efforts are still ongoing.
Combs has taken this effort to the next level by pointing out that new towers have been established and powered on in surrounding locations just outside of the Smyth County borders during the past two years in both Grayson and Wythe Counties serving the same or less population and span across similar geographical terrain, drawing the attention and interest of numerous media outlets, tower companies, service providers, and the community.
“By raising awareness and keeping these ongoing efforts in the public eye and by making information and updates available via our community website and social media channels, the community stays interested and well-informed of what’s happening,” Combs said.
The community website and Maple Leaf Blog serve as the only media source representing the Sugar Grove community. Upon searching the site’s archives, you will find a long string of documentation of the community’s efforts, involvement and support to establish cellular service as well as their willingness to work with the Smyth County Board of Supervisors. Combs is in a unique position to provide information and updates by serving as a point of contact and communications for the community as well as the administrator of the community website. She is also directly responsible for bringing these issues to the attention of Delegate Jeff Campbell and organizing a community visit from him related to these efforts in 2013 which lead to “letters of intent” being developed and submitted to the Smyth County Board of Supervisors.
Recently, Smyth County Board of Supervisors reported that they have unanimously voted to accept one of the 199’ self-supporting Rev G communication towers from Mid-Atlantic Broadband. The resolution went on to state that South Boston-based Mid-Atlantic Broadband has expressed the interest and intention to provide a suitable tower.
Combs began maintaining a list of suitable available properties in and around the Sugar Grove Community for just such an occasion that a company may be interested in placement of a tower. This information was requested last week by Lori Hester, Community and Economic Development Director and was provided on the basis of the new resolution. (If you have Real Estate and did not add it to the list, you can still do so by submitting your information to firstname.lastname@example.org Updates are being provided to the County Administrator’s office)
While a new tower construction is not expected immediately, it’s something to look forward to in the future once all of the pieces are in the puzzle. Verizon will have to conduct some engineering studies and determine an appropriate location for the tower that best meets the needs of the community and their criteria for tower sites.
“I am thankful for the many interested property owners in Sugar Grove and surrounding areas who have provided their information via the website along the way as well as the support of our community council, fire department and rescue squad. Without the support that exists within the Sugar Grove community, this would not be possible,” Combs said.
Over the course of nearly two years, Combs has been diligent with efforts to make contact and follow ups with a variety of Real Estate acquisition agents who are associated with cellular providers and tower companies as well as with representatives who are with companies offering cutting edge “outside the box” technology to fit the needs of Sugar Grove. It seems as though these efforts have now paid off in a big way.
“These are the reasons that it’s so important to have good internet representation for the community,” Combs said. “Having a website puts Sugar Grove, Virginia, out there for the world to see and when you are attractively on display, you have a better shot at being part of things where you wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity.” “For example, I found that many providers did not know that there was no cell service nor that the community was seeking service.” Combs added, “It is through detailed search engine optimization of the Sugar Grove website that this information became widely known to potential providers. I did not begin follow ups with these individuals until they exhibited an interest in our community and initiated contact.”
Combs continues to urge Sugar Grove citizens to push for better economic development in the community citing that this is an example of what we as a community can accomplish when we work actively toward a goal.
A while back, the Maple Leaf Blog mentioned that 2015 might just be the year that it [a cell tower] happens for Sugar Grove and it looks like it’s at least going to be the year that the process begins!