The question of installing a cell tower is a hot ticket item these days in Sherman.

What's different, according to proponents, is that the tower has been recommended to improve emergency communications in town.

The site found for the proposed tower, Sherman Town Meadows off Route 39 North, is a 112-acre parcel with a 200-foot high hill on which the tower would perch.

At least 40 residents have voiced disapproval with the plan.

"I don't blame the residents who are upset by this proposal," said First Selectman Andrea O'Connor. "The tower would be of a lattice-work construction -- not a monopole-- 190-feet tall with microwave discs on six extended arms. It wouldn't be attractive."

Yet, she opined, the tower is a necessity.

"I've been there when a cell signal drops while a paramedic is getting instructions from the base hospital" while caring for a patient, Mrs. O'Connor said. "There's an ongoing problem for police, fire and ambulance crews. It's persistent."

The tower was proposed by Litchfield County Dispatch, which Sherman joined in 2002.

To meet its commitment to improve emergency communications, LCD asked town officials to recommend a town-owned parcel for a cell tower.

"The town's emergency services are not getting dispatched as they should be," said Joe Del Buono, executive director of Litchfield County Dispatch.

"When EMS are out, they're not in contact with each other. It's a quiet town but it only takes one emergency where a life is lost before it is too many," Mr. Del Buono said.

Litchfield County Dispatch is seeking a cell service provider to install and fund part of the $3 million cost of the tower, Mr. Del Buono said. AT&T has shown an interest, he added.

Andy Rickert of Sherman Concerned Citizens notes the residents group is "disheartened" town officials are "considering moving ahead on this unpopular proposal."

Noting the expected unsightliness of having the tower in a community "known for preserving the natural environment," Mr. Rickert pointed out "possible cancer and other health risks" purported to be associated with radiation emitted by cell towers.

He also added a potential loss in property values.

"It's the people's decision," Mrs. O'Connor said. "A town meeting is set for Dec. 10, going to a referendum on Dec. 18 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. That's just to decide on a lease for the property."

If it were to survive that test, the project would need Planning and Zoning Commission approval. Since the tower would be on town-owned property and would be required for emergency services, Siting Council approval is not required.

Mr. Del Buono noted Litchfield County Dispatch is also exploring the alternative of placing antennas on the Sherman firehouse roof.

That would "probably improve communications by less than 30 percent," he said.