The Bellmore Fire Department may install a new cell tower to improve communications between its three companies, located on Petit Avenue, Newbridge Road and Bellmore Avenue.
Fire department officials have been looking to improve the sometimes-spotty radio service that they fear could potentially interrupt a rescue mission, said Jordan Leibner, president of Engine Company No. 2 on Bellmore Avenue.
“One time is too many to have communication problems in a fire department,” he added and stressed that the tower would be designated for emergency use.
Leibner first presented the idea at a Nov. 9 public meeting at Engine Company No. 2, atop which the tower would be erected. There, residents shared concerns about the appearance of the tower and the possible danger of radiation spreading.
Communication companies must follow strict guidelines, as set forth by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements in 1996, to ensure that their towers do not emit too much radiation. Under the guidelines, there is supposed to be “minimal risk” of exposure to anyone on the ground or inside the building on which the tower operates.
“Its nice that the [department] even included us,” said Alison Frankel, the president of the South Bellmore Civic Association. “They didn’t have to do that. But we have some concerns.”
Frankel said that her main concern is safety. She posted on the association’s Facebook page before the first meeting, urging residents to attend and voice their concerns. She wrote, “Many years ago when cell towers were being installed drastically on the island, nobody came to fight the towers that are now sitting on top of [the] Chase Bank building.”
Also on Facebook, one resident asked why the department hadn’t considered installing a cellular repeater instead of a tower. A repeater is a bi-directional amplifier that connects with nearby cell towers.
In response, Leibner said that a repeater would not provide enough height to ensure quality communication. The tower is planned as an 80-foot tall monopole, according to Leibner, and all antennae and wiring would be inside of its frame. “It’s made to blend in with the sky, honestly,” he said.
The tower would be constructed and funded by Elite Cellular Towers, which has built 27 towers throughout Long Island. Leibner said that he is confident the community will be safe from radiation. “All the members of the station live within blocks of this tower and we have the same concerns [as residents],” he said. “If it wasn’t safe, we wouldn’t go along with the project.”
John Coughlin, an attorney working with the department on the project, said that many fire departments across Long Island install cell towers and follow NCRPM guidelines and the Bellmore Fire Department will do the same.
Frankel, on behalf of some residents, said that she also wonders whether the department will lease the tower to Verizon in the future.
Leibner said that although the department might at some point decide to lease the tower, “if anything happens, the design of the pole will not change.”
There is a meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 20 at Engine Company No. 2 at 7 p.m. There, Elite will have representatives, and residents will be able to voice any additional concerns. If the fire department goes through with the project, it will take one to two years to complete, according to Leibner.