By Kyle Barr
News of plans to construct a cell tower on a town-owned Fort Salonga beach is getting a warm reception from first responders and rescue workers.
Plans for a new cell tower at Callahans Beach has public safety officials across the Town of Smithtown excited that it may increase response times and stop misplaced emergency calls to Connecticut.
“Say you’re down at the bluff, sometimes your 911 call would go across the Sound to Connecticut because it’s the easiest and quickest line of sight,” Chief John Valentine, director of Smithtown’s public safety department said. “Most of the departments [in Connecticut] know to transfer them to 911 in Suffolk County, but those time frames, although only miniscule, are valuable time to any 911 emergency.”
“This thing is imperative because it’s going to complete communications we need for our public safety issues, which includes everything — fire, ambulance, police…”
– Ed Wehrheim
The new cell tower is to be built in a corner of theupper parking area, adjacent to the campground portion of the beach property, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R). Every cell tower erected in the township has the Town of Smithtown’s public safety network built into it, and this new cell tower will complete the triangulation created by existing towers at the Landing Country Club in Smithtown and the Smithtown Public Safety building on Maple Avenue.
Valentine said that there are dead zones in terms of public safety communications in the Kings Park Fire Department area, in Nissequogue and the Village of the Head of the Harbor hamlets.
Wehrheim said that completing this cell tower will enable first responders at all levels to better react to emergencies.
“This thing is imperative because it’s going to complete communications we need for our public safety issues, which includes everything — fire, ambulance, police — all our public safety people will all be on that tower,” the supervisor said.
The Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously at its June 12 meeting to sign the lease agreement between the town and Propagation Solutions Inc., for Site Tech Wireless LLC to install the approximately 150-foot cell tower. Valentine said the planning department still has to go through procedures before installation can begin.
The town’s public safety director said the effort to build a third cell tower has been in the works for the past four years, and has been held up in the process of getting approval from both town and state entities as it is being built on parkland.
“If the chief gets on scene to say there’s an issue like a cardiac arrest, and he can’t reach the dispatcher to relay that information, it might be life threatening.”
– Peter Laura Sr.
“We’re anxious to get it done, Valentine said. “The Kings Park Fire Department and all our other users on our network are anxious to get it in place.”
Kings Park Fire Commissioner Peter Laura Sr. said that the area of Fort Salonga is notoriously bad for radio reception because of its hilly landscape.
“It’s of great importance to us, we need to be able to talk,” Laura said. “If the chief gets on scene to say there’s an issue like a cardiac arrest, and he can’t reach the dispatcher to relay that information, it might be life threatening. This tower would hopefully solve the radio communication problem.”
Valentine said that he has not heard any concerns or complaints regarding the installation of a new cell phone tower.
“We have been met with nothing but encouragement to get this done from both public safety interests and residents,” he said.
Pete Hans, the principle planner for the Town of Smithtown, said that the planning department must still complete a local waterfront revitalization program review, which if everything goes according to plan will be presented at the July 17 town board meeting. In the best case scenario the cell tower should be presented for approval to the board by September.