by Jay Lawson
Town of Webb Councilman David Berkstresser has met recently with principals involved in the project to build a new emergency services antenna atop McCauley Mountain.
Berkstresser has joined the effort on behalf of the Town Board.
Discussions have included Webb Code Enforcement Officer Andy Getty and Bob Vander-walker, Coordinator for Herkimer County Emergency Medical Services.
The process needs to keep moving so grant money can be expended, as required, before the end of the year, according to Berkstresser.
“They have already had one extension. I doubt they will grant a second,” he said.
The grant funds were awarded to Herkimer County, which earmarked a portion to the Town of Webb, Berk-stresser said.
“One of the things holding us up was the design of the base. We weren’t sure of the substrate underneath the tower,” he said.
Berkstresser said Webb is going to push for a generic design that can be modified later. This will allow the application process to continue with the Adirondack Park Agency, he said.
Eventually, a drilling machine will have to be taken up McCauley to get core samples.
“We only want to make one trip. It’s hard to get to where the tower will be located,” Berkstresser said.
Hamilton County is also trying to move a tower project through the Adirondack Park Agency and to secure permits, according to Berkstresser.
Bob Vanderwalker wants to use that project’s consultant to help with Webb’s antenna, he said.
The current emergency services antenna is on a tower owned by National Grid.
As more and more users have taken space on the tower, the emergency services antenna has gotten pushed lower and lower, Berkstresser said.
“To the point now that we are actually below the tree canopy. So, it has restricted communications for Police, Fire and Ambulance,” he said.
And neighboring antennae on the tower can interfere with emergency transmissions.
“There is some overlap. A lot of skip and a lot of carry-over, because you’ve got two cell phone services, you’ve got National Grid. You’ve also got communications for the school buses, the highway garage, and all the private entities that rent space on that tower,” Berk-stresser said.
The new tower will solve the problem.
The quality of emergency communications is becoming a high priority statewide, not just locally, according to Berk-stresser.
“Governor Cuomo has put money out there for this. He wants to trunk the entire state together in one communication system. Right now it’s all broken into separate counties and regions,” he said.
The intended system will allow for universal communications among the emergency departments that operate on different frequencies.
“This creates one system among all the counties for better coordination in the event of a terrorist attack, a national disaster—whatever it may be,” Berkstresser said.
The attack at the Boston Marathon was among the events that brought some communications shortcoming to light, according to Berk-stresser.
He said the police, fire and ambulance squads experienced some difficulty communicating between departments, when all had been activated at once.
“That was part of what initiated all of this,” Berkstesser said.
Councilman Berkstresser said the project will be ongoing through the design, permitting and construction phases, and that he will be providing the Town of Webb Board with regular updates.