Cell tower set to go online
An eight-year quest to improve emergency communications and cellular service in town could be just days away from completion as workers have completed construction on the communications tower at police headquarters. The project was first proposed in 2009.
Deputy Chief Glenn Byrnes said the platform for the emergency dispatch radios has been installed, and now it was a matter of waiting for the radio equipment to be installed.
“It will be a huge improvement, and one that’s been a very long time coming,” he said.
The new tower is part of a larger project to upgrade communications, which includes replacing the previous lattice antenna with a monopole about 30 feet taller, and also the installation of seven other communications antennae in town.
“This will be a vast improvement that we’ve been counting on,” Byrnes said. “It will allow line-of-sight communication through the whole town, rather than relying on telephone connections.”
Cellular provider T-Mobile first proposed a 180-foot tower in 2009. Neighbors and the police union opposed the tower, citing potential loss of property value and possible health effects of radiation from cellular transmissions. The Connecticut Siting Council approved a 130-foot pole in 2012. In 2014 the Town Council approved adding 20 feet to the tower’s height on the recommendations of Byrnes and former Police Chief Tom Kiely.
“When what was supposed to be a simple call gets complicated, their only line of defense is the radio,” Kiely said the 2014 meeting. “It’s more important than a bulletproof vest or a gun.”
Kiely illustrated the potential dangers of “dead zones” in town by telling the council he had been unable to contact Byrnes during a bank robbery on White Plains Road where he had to drive a short distance away to get a signal.
Union President Robert Coppola told the council the union had not been convinced of the need for the new tower, but conceded he was uncertain officers would be able to communicate with headquarters from all the schools in town. In the end, the council approved the new, taller pole with only Democrat Tom Christiano voting against it.