The City Council on Oct. 24 approved steps a citizens committee and city officials will take in an attempt to find design alternatives to an existing 170-foot communications tower next to the public safety building neighbors have nicknamed the “Oil Rig.”
The triangular tower, with 13 vertical antennas, was built to enable the police and fire departments to communicate with their field personnel. The structure was designed to withstand a major earthquake.
Neighbors have complained the tower destroys views and hurts home values. In addition they are concerned the electromagnetic radiation that would emanate from the tower may be a health hazard. Currently the tower is not in operation.
The City Council has allocated $50,000 for a consultant who will prepare a study to examine alternatives. The content of the study will be determined by city staff and a six-member citizens committee.
“The tower is just too demanding of your attention, it overwhelms the neighborhood,” said Carrie Sprague, a member of the approved six-member citizens committee and tower neighbor who is working with the city to find a solution to the tower design.
The committee is currently considering a draft report outlining the issues the consultant will address. The draft, prepared by the Office of Capital Improvements, includes a thorough examination of the health risks presented by electromagnetic radiation, the possibility of moving or dispersing the tower and the possibility of camouflage. The study will also present a cost estimates for each option.
Sprague said the committee is adamant that the tower’s visual impact must be addressed. One way of accomplishing that is to disperse the antennae to several locations in the vicinity of the Public Safety Building.
Sprague said the committee understands the tower must remain in the area for technical reasons. “We know the tower won’t be moving and we would not inflict our tower on any other neighborhood,” she said.
Sprague added that whoever is hired as the consultant will have to have experience in tower dispersal.
City project manager, Joe Derie said he will meet with the citizens committee Nov. 8 and they will hash out the consultant’s responsibilities. “Once everybody is happy with the wording in the draft, we’ll go back to the City Council for their blessing and the next step is to find a consultant.”
Derie said he did not want to estimate the cost of any of the mitigation options and that the city did not prefer one solution over another. “We want the neighborhood to be happy and that’s why we’re hiring a consultant.”