New Public Safety Radio Tower Coming after Broward Failure?

A commission investigating the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland has criticized the county for not getting a new public safety radio system sooner. The current system couldn’t adequately handle the heavy radio traffic.

by Larry Barszewski, Sun Sentinel / August 16, 2019
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(TNS) — After months of emotional debate, it looks like a new public safety tower could rise in the place a lot of people dreaded.

An independent consultant says the tower, considered essential to improving emergency communications in Broward County, should be built at West Lake Park in Hollywood, not stuck on top of a downtown high-rise as opponents suggested.

The report by Monetti & Associates was released Friday and prepared for the city and Broward County. The two agreed to have an outside consultant look at the issue because they could not settle on a site. Both sides agreed to abide by the consultant’s recommendations.

The report says it is the consultant’s “very firm conclusion” that the tower should go at West Lake Park “even if costs are not considered.”

The county wanted to place the a 325-foot tower at the county park, but the city and nearby residents objected, saying it did not belong in a natural area and would be prone to damage in hurricanes and flooding.

The city instead requested that the antenna be placed on top of the Circ building downtown, where officials thought it would be less of an eyesore and would not require construction of a tower. County officials were concerned that planning for the Circ site would delay the project, add to its cost and not provide as good coverage.

A state commission investigating the mass shooting last year in Parkland has been critical of the county for not getting a new public safety radio system in operation sooner. The current system could not adequately handle the extensive radio traffic on Feb. 14, 2018, the day when 17 students and faculty were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and 17 were injured.

The county expects to have the new system in operation by the first quarter of 2020 at the earliest.

“The report is quite thorough and detailed, and it’s imperative that we now move forward to complete our state of the art public safety system and save lives,” Broward Mayor Mark Bogen said in a tweet after the report’s release.

Lisa Stingone, a West Lake Village resident near the proposed tower, has opposed the park site and has questions about how independent the consultant actually was.

“I’m waiting for our experts to review it as well and give their opinion,” Stingone said.

Joann Hussey, the city’s communications manager, said city officials are still reviewing the report’s findings.

“Throughout the tower siting process, the city’s goal has always been to place this equipment in the best possible location to provide for the security and safety of all Broward County residents,” she said in an email.

Among the report’s findings:

  • The park site tower would be easier to construct, give better access to the antenna and could be completed faster.
  • The antenna could be placed at the Circ if it were the only choice, but the park site “will introduce less risk to schedule, thus providing benefits from the perspectives of public safety, citizen safety, and citizen well-being.”
  • The park site would provide better coverage in and around Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, whiled the Circ site would have better coverage in Miami-Dade County, which isn’t as important for a Broward radio system.
  • Strong opposition to the Circ location “should be expected” once it becomes clear about 400 city residents could be affected by construction at the Circ and may have to be evacuated during certain construction periods.

“In addition, we note that no outreach has been made to Circ residents and neighbors regarding disruptions that would occur during construction and during resupply events over the life of the site,” the report said. “These disruptions will include evacuations, road and sidewalk closures, closures of pool and balconies, relocations of personal storage spaces, etc. Such outreach is likely to bring significant opposition from the residents.”

County officials said they will immediately begin taking measures to construct the tower at West Lake Park. It will be the 16th and final tower in the county’s $80 million build-out of a new public safety radio system. The Hollywood tower will increase radio capacity, coverage and level of redundancy for residents in portions of Hollywood, Hallandale Beach and Dania Beach, officials said.

This is a developing story, so check back for updates. Click here to have breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox.

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