Jul 30, 2014

Trumbull's Cell Tower Illuminated

The first of two hearings last week focused on the technical details of the proposal.

Trumbull's Cell Tower Illuminated Trumbull's Cell Tower Illuminated Trumbull's Cell Tower Illuminated

More specifics of the cell tower proposed for the Trumbull came to light last week at one of two hearings last week.

The first hearing was for all parties involved and the second drew residents and other concerned citizens. 

T-Mobile would own and operate the proposed tower and lease space to Trumbull for its police, fire and communications. The proposed tower will replace the one built along with the police station in 1981. The tower is at end of its useful life.

The proposed tower intended to eliminate existing dead spots within the town, enhance communications between EMS and the two hospitals in Bridgeport and facilitate communications with first responders in surrounding communities.

The project is really two projects. One is the public safety platform that lies outside the Council's jurisdiction – yet drives factors that have raised the ire of neighbors. The other is T-Mobile's piggybacked commercial platform that makes it financially viable, and over which the Council does have jurisdiction. The Council has already approved a contract with T-Mobile.

In laying out the ground rules for the first hearing, Council Chair Robin Stein stated that health related issues are, by law, excluded from topics the Council may consider in rendering its decision.

First Selectman Tim Herbst opened by saying, “I have a moral and legal obligation to protect the health, safety and welfare of all our citizens."

He said that the town must enhance emergency communications and it must improve cell phone reception for its citizens, for its businesses and for visitors to our community. He added that he is charged with weighing emergency response needs against the interests of neighborhood residents.

Herbst is on record with the council saying “I support anything the Council can do to improve the visual appearance of this tower.”

More details came to light as people questioned the 10-member Siting Council for more than two hours.

The audience learned the proposed tower will be 150 feet high, with nine antennas, the tallest of which will serve EMS and reach another 21 feet in the air.

Trumbull Town Council members dwelled on the technical aspects of the proposal. They asked whether the tower needed to be 150 feet high – would 140 or 130 feet suffice, how far away will the tower be visible, and whether it should be painted sky blue or a gray shade (blue)?

Motorola consultant Eric Fine, responding for T-Mobile, noted that the 150-foot tower was needed by EMS for its out of town communications. He also noted that a higher tower becomes more attractive to commercial carriers seeking a base in Trumbull.

Town Council members asked about ice and wind loadings and how service will be backed up.

It appeared that in the aftermath of Irene, the recent snow storm and even last winter, the council may require more than it might have only a few months ago.

The company responded that the wind and ice standard to which it will be built is that currently in effect, not the higher one under consideration, and that the plan is for 12 – 16 hours of battery back up.

One council member said eight hour back up is “gospel,” but he no longer finds that reasonable. He recommended a 48 hour capability, and asked about adding a natural gas fired generator or even a fuel cell.

They asked how often maintenance required climbing the tower, whether it should have a platform to facilitate maintenance, whether the antenna technology was the most current, and about how many additional commercial operators could be hosted.

Climbing is infrequent – far from often enough to warrant replacing the platform neighbors had previously deleted from the plans.

Fine said the tower can host three commercial “backhaul” dishes (for sending and receiving local wireless calls to and from other towers), but T-Mobile has not yet obtained commitments from other carriers.

Asked about why the proposed location was selected, Fine responded “that's a valid point,” and said no other locations had been considered. Subsequent converstaion seemed to indicate that because the tower is there, and because Trumbull's emergency management center is there, so should the new tower be there.

The town owns or has available perhaps five other towers to back up the proposed tower.

It was noted that even today the police do not transmit from this location, but do so from a tower on Monitor Hill in Tashua. But they do receive through the Edison Road tower and the two other emergency services send and receive there.

There was a discussion about the underlying technology. The new tower will incorporate a legacy land line. In contrast, Stamford has a relatively new and entirely wireless network that creates its own back up by “lighting up” four locations simultaneously for every transmission.

It was noted that Trumbull's less costly choice is budget driven, that its technology will be outdated within four years, while the physical structure is designed to have a 30 year life.

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