ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers tentatively agreed Monday to replace a weakened radio tower in Moriah and hire a firm to oversee the entire $17 million public-safety radio project about to get under way.
The County Board of Supervisors will take a final vote next Monday on those two segments of the project that will rebuild the county’s ailing and antiquated radio network into a modern digital system.
Construction is scheduled to start next week and continue to fall.
Pending full board approval, the radio tower on Belfry Mountain in Moriah would be taken out of service and a 180-foot-high Sabre tower erected by All State Tower of Henderson, Ky., at an adjacent site at a cost of $76,515.
The new tower site on Belfry will be owned by the county, as opposed to the present location, which is owned by Harris Communications.
An engineering survey showed the existing tower isn’t strong enough to support the new radio apparatus. The old tower, which is owned by the county, will be removed at a later date, Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said.
At Monday’s Ways and Means session, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) asked if the new tower will be disguised as a tree.
“Is this a Frankenpine?”
“That’s a regular tower,” County Manager Daniel Palmer responded. “It’s based on what was previously there.
“There are no Frankenpines in the system.”
‘FAMILIAR WITH PROJECT’
The new radio system will use 17 sites to tie fire, police and emergency-medical personnel into the County 911 Center in Lewis. In most cases, existing towers will be used to host a county antenna representing one node in the network.
The board also voted to hire Federal Engineering of Fairfax, Va., for $138,000 as construction manager for the radio project.
“That’s an estimate of what they believe construction services will take,” Palmer said. “If it goes over that, they’ll come back.”
He said Federal Engineering is familiar with the project and had an option in its contract to supply construction services.
“It only made sense to continue with them (Federal),” Palmer said.
Both votes by Ways and Means passed unanimously, with Supervisors Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) and Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) absent.
On the most controversial part of the project, the placement of antennas on four existing towers at Little Whiteface, Gore, Blue and Morris mountains that might disturb the rare Bicknell’s thrush, Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said they intend to make sure the little bird isn’t impacted.
“We’re well aware of Audubon Society and Adirondack Council’s concerns (about disturbing the thrush). We feel we’ve come to some sort of compromise.”
He said the main issue is not disturbing the Bicknell’s thrush during its mating season, May 15 to Aug. 1.
“We can make it fit into this construction season without having an adverse effect on Bicknell’s thrush.”
Douglas said the Olympic Regional Development Authority is removing the Ski Patrol building on Little Whiteface this week.
The county will construct a new, larger Ski Patrol hut that will house its transmitter for the public-safety radio system.
State Department of Environmental Conservation biologists will be on Little Whiteface from 4:30 a.m. to mid-morning on June 1 and 2 to study whether the Bicknell’s thrush is being disturbed, Douglas said.
“We’ll evaluate whether it’s (the bird) close to the construction site. If it is close by, we’re looking for quiet hours, 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., without power tools and that sort of thing.”
He said they had to apply for State Department of Labor permission to change the working hours at the site.
“I think everyone’s going to be happy, including the Bicknell’s thrush. It’s been a long process.”
Douglas expressed thanks to DEC and the Governor’s Office for helping the county with the bird issue.
“We have approval to be up there right now,” Douglas said.
Construction on Little Whiteface will take about three months, Palmer said.
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