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First Responders Communication Tower Faces Opposition from Arnold Residents

Emergency workers say the new tower would fix dead spots for police, sheriff, fire or ambulance transmissions; the city’s planning commission denied a permit to build it.

A proposed tower that emergency workers say could help patch dead spots in Jefferson County’s communications system is at the heart of a controversy in Arnold on two fronts.

Building the 309-foot tower on the property of DeClue and Sons Tree Care, 3500 Telegraph Road, would require city council approval because it would be 110 feet taller than the city’s regulations allow.

Residents have been speaking out against the tower at recent planning commision meetings. At one August meeting, 18 Arnold residents opposed the tower, saying they feared it would be dangerous in powerful tornadoes, reduce property values and expose them to cancer-causing radiation.

"If the tower falls it has a possibility of hitting the gasoline (pipeline). When it blows, it will be a disaster," said James Geisler according to the Aug. 28 meeting minutes.

The tower would be approximately 100 feet from CenterPoint Energy's buried pipeline, however they do not see any problems with the location according to city officials.

At the same time, first responders say the city may be powerless to stop the project because federal law requires the county to upgrade its communications system — a requirement that sticks in the craw of some city council members.

The controversy came up at a recent city council work session where first responders were invited to answer questions about the proposed radio and microwave communication tower, which needs a conditional use permit because of its height. Jefferson County 911 Dispatch has requested the permit. The city set a second public hearing on the matter for Oct. 18.

City staff OK’ed the project, but the city’s planning commission denied it. Now it’s up to the council, which can override the planning commission. The council will vote on the tower after the October public hearing.

The communications tower would provide crystal clear service for any police, sheriff, fire or ambulance crew operating in the Arnold area, according to Jefferson County 911. Officials said there are several known dead spots in the current system where radios do not work and that sometimes first responders need to go back to their vehicles to access more powerful radios.

The new system would also include replacement radio equipment for Arnold Police, route: {:controller=>"listings", :action=>"show", :id=>"arnold-police-department"} -->,

Mr Wonderful September 21, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Not knowing all the details, I do believe that Arnold must move on with more current technical products that could possibly save lives. I guess we could use the tin can and string, but what would happen if it broke????? we need to take more steps forward and less backward.... thanks
elise September 24, 2012 at 01:54 AM
I don't think anyone is truly opposed to updating Jefferson County's communication system. However, the current plan the 911 board has presented has a lot of unanswered questions. This project is already costing 31.4 million dollars. In regards to the narrowband mandate it only requires that equipment operate at the 12.5kHz efficiency.  From what I have read, it does not require operating on a different band or installing a completely different system.  It only requires equipment that complies with the narrowband efficiency guidelines.  Motorola has been making equipment narrowband efficient since 1997. The dead spots should be addressed, but has 911 consulted the locally owned tower companies? What voice have we given the preexisting providers, which by the way complied to the current Jefferson County UDO. Many of the preexisting towers can be extended, but 911 has showed little interest. There is a lot more to this story, we need to comply with the federal mandate, we also need to make wise decisions.
elise September 24, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I don't think anyone is truly opposed to updating Jefferson County's communication system. However, the current plan the 911 board has presented has a lot of unanswered questions. This project is already projected to cost31.4 million dollars. In regards to the narrowband mandate it only requires that equipment operate at the 12.5kHz efficiency. From what I have read, it does not require operating on a different band or installing a completely different system. It only requires equipment that complies with the narrowband efficiency guidelines. Motorola has been making equipment narrowband efficient since 1997. The dead spots should be addressed, but has 911 consulted the locally owned tower companies? What voice have we given the preexisting providers, which by the way complied to the current Jefferson County UDO. Many of the preexisting towers can be extended, but 911 has showed little interest. There is a lot more to this story, we need to comply with the federal mandate, we also need to make wise decisions
Jim Sharp September 26, 2012 at 03:47 PM
There are scads of towers specifically built to provide lease space in that area. Nice towers like the one at 3761 Telegraph road, belonging to Global tower - just down the road from the proposed site. At 7381 Telegraph road there are two towers, one belonging to St Charles Tower, and the other to Cingular (Who often provides space to government agencies free of charge). I suspect tunnel vision has set in for the county, and they are not looking at reasonable alternatives. Maybe the city of Arnold should have an outside consultant (Such as another tower company) with no interest in a tower in that area take a look at it. Motorola has a vested interest in telling the county a new tower is needed, as they make a profit off the tower. One may say that it is cheaper to build a new tower than use an existing tower and pay rent - but is it? Land rent, tower monitoring, etc, costs all add up. An interesting note, the State of Missouri is installing a new statewide radio system, and they are using a lot of leased tower space.
Doris Borgelt September 26, 2012 at 04:55 PM
The mandate can be complied with and a minute fraction of the money can be spent than what is currently slated to go towards this project. Why were no other sites even considered? Why is there no Plan B? Why all of a sudden a rush? Years were wasted and now rash decisions costing millions are being made. Alternatives need to be explored. Someone is getting fat off of this and the taxpayers are picking up the tab.
Ann Moloney September 27, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Sure hope the taxpayers will not have to pay for the lawsuits when the private business tower owners start litigating. Since when does the government have the right to go into the tower business with our money? I thought the planning and zoning boards had to comply with their own rules. This is just nonsense.
That Guy September 27, 2012 at 03:58 AM
The FCC says they have to narrow the bandwidth from 25kHz to 12.5 kHz. Part of the problem with narrow banding is that you can lose a great deal of radio coverage, in some cases up to 40% depending on topography. Eventually, the FCC will make them narrow band again. That means the bandwidth will go down to 6.25kHz, which means even more coverage loss. All of that coverage loss has to be mitigated somehow. They will end up needing over twice as many towers as they have right now to make up for the coverage loss. The system they are going to sounds like a much better deal in the long run.
Doris Borgelt September 27, 2012 at 05:22 AM
A better deal for whom? Not the taxpayers, that is for sure! The mandate was met in Franklin county for a pittance. Don't buy a Cadillac with the Jefferson County taxpayers money when a Chevy will do the job quite nicely.
That Guy September 27, 2012 at 07:32 AM
As I stated before, if they narrowband, it creates more problems in terms of coverage loss. It creates a serious safety problem as well for units in the field. I don't pretend to know Franklin County's situation on why they chose to narrowband. Talk to them 6 months from now and ask them how their reception is. Then I suppose you'll find out if the "Chevy" was worth the trouble. As a citzen, I have done a great deal of research on this issue, educated myself, if you will, and it appears to me that the "Chevy" is going to cost as much, if not more down the road in terms of how many towers they will have to errect to make up for the coverage issues involved with narrowbanding. Not to mention the the headaches and complaints the emergency services in the county are going to have as a result.
Doris Borgelt September 28, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I disagree. Compare the cost of the Jefferson County 911 system upgrade to that of the Franklin County 911 upgrade. It appears Franklin County meets the mandate for maybe 5% of what Jefferson County is spending? Classify it as highway robbery, there is no justification for the disparity in project costs between the two counties. No alternate sites investigated, no plan B, just $30+Million dollars and it will be spent whether it needs to be or not.
That Guy September 28, 2012 at 05:23 AM
If they narrowband only, they will need twice as many towers as they have now to make up for the coverage loss involved in narrowbanding. That translates to more money. As I understand it, the towers are a big chunk of that $30 million dollars. Then, when the FCC tells them, who knows how many years down the road, that they will need to narrowband again, their tower total goes up again. That translates to more money. I understand that you, as well as others are looking at this from a money perspective, and the world needs people like you. But there are other considerations; such as officer safety and what will best serve the communication needs of this county. The world also needs people who don't have such a short-sighted, uneducated view point on this issue. I don't look at it as "highway robbery." I believe this radio system will be a huge benefit to the citizens and emergency services personnel of this county.
Doris Borgelt September 28, 2012 at 10:06 AM
There are plenty of towers. Look around. Just ask yourself, why was Franklin County able to meet the mandate for less than 5% of what Jefferson County is willing to spend? Franklin County covers 250+ more square miles than Jefferson County. Do you think the first responders in Franklin County are unsafe? Or did they accomplish their task without spending millions of dollars? You can look at it any way you choose. Calling others short-sighted and uneducated does not prove your argument. Someone's pockets are being lined with millions in taxpayer money. The only huge benefit will be to whomever is depositing it in their bank. If you would like to lay out a presentation that compares apples to apples and opens the whole process to better scrutiny, you might have something to tout. Until you can answer who, what, when, where and why or why not, try sticking to putting facts out instead of conjecture. . .oh, and if your argument had any credence, you would put your name on it, just saying....
Doris Borgelt September 28, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Here are a few links to documentation that has been provided in many of the meetings regarding these towers. http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605908 http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605906 http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605903 http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605898 http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605895 http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605893 http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605891 http://www.scribd.com/doc/107605883 There are meeting minutes demonstrating first responders concerns regarding this system. Concerns about costs and alternatives suggesting use of existing towers. Restrictions regarding tower height and forms that need to be filled out regarding the towers and their impact on the environment. There is plenty of information here to mull over.
Elaine Whited October 28, 2012 at 03:24 PM
According to a PowerPoint presentation I received regarding this project, Jefferson County 911 currently uses 6 towers and will only need 4 more towers (likely existing towers could be used) to narrowband. Even if they needed to use a few more existing towers to handle any coverage loss created by narrowbanding, it would likely not need to be a total of 18 towers. So, we are going from 6 towers to 17 brand new very tall towers plus one existing tower. Oh, and by the way, according to Jefferson County UDO, all tower companies are required to provide space on towers for 911 equipment at no cost to Jefferson County or Jefferson County 911. So, if using existing towers, the only cost is for the equipment plus any installation/configuration.
Elaine Whited October 28, 2012 at 03:25 PM
. . . continued . . . After speaking with those who have been involved in implementing narrowband upgrades, I have been told that there are ways to overcome coverage loss without incurring high dollars. One is to increase the wattage of equipment, another is to install better antennas and, if necessary, install equipment on an existing tower where needed. This all can be accomplished in a relatively cost effective manner while still ensuring the safety of the agencies using radios throughout our County. Currently, the sales tax has only generated approximately half of the dollars for this proposed project. Officers will be required to buy some of their own equipment, like shoulder mics and radio holsters. Really? We can't even afford to outfit those protecting us with the personal equipment needed to do their jobs? Wouldn't it make sense to cut the losses, narrowband in a modest, yet responsible manner, and use the dollars saved for salaries and pensions?

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