PLATTSBURGH — Cell-phone service along a desolate stretch of the Northway must be in place before winter, Sen. Betty Little says. In a meeting with the Press-Republican Editorial Board, Little (R-Queensbury) said Verizon has lease arrangements for six towers to provide cell-phone service along Interstate 87. In an agreement reached with New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and five environmental groups in April, Verizon plans to locate 11 cell-phone towers along the Northway to provide service in a 47-mile dead zone. Little said the company is not ready to submit an application to the Adirondack Park Agency, however. She said that if Verizon is unable to make an application to the APA by September, it will be time to try a different approach. “We can’t go through another winter without cell-phone coverage on the Northway. I don’t want to have to say again, ‘We’re working on it.’” PUSH FOR COWS The calls for cell-phone service along the Northway grew in volume after two people died in accidents last winter. Both occurred along a stretch of the Northway between exits 28 and 35 where cell-phone service is spotty or non-existent. In both cases, it was impossible to summon help by cell phone. One solution would be about three cell phone towers on wheels, known as COWS, that could be temporarily set up in rest areas along the Northway until a permanent system is in place. Little said she would push for use of the COWs if that’s what it will take to get cell service this winter. Spitzer said in March that COWs would be considered a permanent use under Adirondack Park Agency rules and would require a lengthy permitting process by the APA. APA tower placement policy requires agency approval of any structure taller than 40 feet. Towers can’t be built on state land, which makes up more than half the 6.5 million-acre park. There is $1 million in funding in the 2007-08 state budget to provide cell-phone service along the Northway. PETITION DRIVE Little said the American Automobile Association has organized a huge petition drive in favor of providing cell-phone service before winter. Petitions are available at AAA Northway’s Plattsburgh office and online at Road, Travel, and Financial Services - AAA. While Little, along with State Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) and Janet Duprey (R-Peru), were working on cell-phone service for the Northway corridor, other Adirondack communities began calling them about assistance in acquiring service. A meeting in Saranac Lake in March between local government officials and cell-phone service providers resulted in an effort to inventory existing tall structures where cell-phone antennas could be erected. Little said the locations of three dozen such sites have since been passed on to service providers. Little said the APA indicated at that meeting that there is a two-week turnaround on complete cell-phone antenna applications for existing structures. She said antennas are nearly ready to begin operation in Keene and St. Regis Falls. An antenna has been installed in the cupola atop the Elizabethtown Town Hall. Nextel has installed an antenna on the Town of Essex water tower and painted it blue to make it “substantially invisible,” another requirement under APA rules. Verizon wanted to put a cell-phone tower in the parking lot at Westport Country Club, but the Town of Westport has since asked that the antenna be located on town property, Little said. Completion of the Community Broadband Network Connect could also help with cell-phone service. Distributed antenna systems could be placed on the network’s utility poles without an APA permit, Little noted. They would hook into the fiber lines and act like repeaters to carry cell-phone signals.