By JOHN T. WARD
Little Silver officials endorsed a proposal Monday night for the possible construction of a new telecommunications antenna that could rise to 90 feet above the heart of town.
And the plan, which might have generated fierce pushback in the early days of cellphone proliferation, didn’t generate so much as a beep of opposition.
The plan for the tower grew out of a proposal by Verizon Wireless to erect a new antenna atop the building that houses the Turning Point restaurant and other businesses on Prospect Avenue.
That proposal, which was in the midst of planning board hearings over a variance request, was mothballed when planning board member and Councilman Don Galante noted that the borough’s emergency services and public works antenna, just two doors away, was in need of replacement, according to telecom consultant Declan O’Scanlon.
According to police Chief Dan Shaffery, the borough’s radio communications system has been plagued with problems for 15 years or more, despite numerous “band-aid” fixes. Additional damage caused by Hurricane Sandy left the system even more prone to “dead zones,” forcing patrol officers and dispatchers to ask for repeat transmissions, he said.
“The thing we need is height,” Shaffery said. “Out bag of tricks is empty now. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
A borough resident, former councilman and current member of the state Assembly, O’Scanlon volunteered the services of his firm, FSD Enterprises, to work up bid specifications under which, if successful, a telecom provider such as Verizon would build a new tower behind borough hall, adjacent to the existing one. The borough would own the structure and charge rent to telecom companies that install their equipment on it.
What’s in it for the company that builds it? Getting it done quickly, and possibly getting dibs on the best location for equipment on the tower, O’Scanlon told redbankgreen.
But the bid specs “are very generic, and don’t favor Verizon or anyone else,” he told the council.
O’Scanlon estimated the tower would be about 90 feet tall, compared to the present structure’s 62 feet, which includes an extension antenna.
FSD is not taking a fee for its work, O’Scanlon said.
At Monday night’s workshop session prior to a regular council meeting, Mayor Bob Neff said he had not encountered any opposition to the plan, which was advertised in the town bulletin.
“I haven’t heard any real concern about it so far,” he said.
The specs also call for a “courtesy review” by the planning board, though the council would have final say in the matter, O’Scanlon said. Still, Councilman Dane Mihlon said the governing body should give additional notice to owners of property within 200 feet of borough hall, just as any applicant for a variance must.