Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 21, 2013

County radio project towers come up short; may cost an additional $330K

Niagara Gazette — Apparent oversights by a company paid nearly $600,000 to manage Niagara County's emergency communication system upgrade may end up costing taxpayers an additional $330,000.

As it turns out, power lines in Lewiston, an industrial smokestack in Niagara Falls and a tree in Gasport are blocking line-of-sight microwave communication between radio towers in the seven-tower upgrade plan.

Now, county officials say, new towers being constructed at the Upper Mountain, North Tonawanda/Gratwick Hose and Terry's Corners fire stations will have to be taller than 180 feet, the height that's written into the plan that was sold to the county — which could add $330,000 to the $10 million project.

Officials are taken aback by the news.

County Legislator David Godfrey, R-Wilson, chairman of the legislature's communtiy safety and security committee, said it's not just the extent of sudden tower "growth" that bothers him, it's also upgrade project manager L.R. Kimball & Associates' explanation for why that growth is necessary.

In a nutshell, he said, the experts who designed the system didn't account for some signal-blocking objects between towers.

The North Tonawanda tower may have to grow by 125 feet, to 305 feet tall, in order to communicate with the existing tower atop Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. It's because the Covanta waste-to-energy factory smokestack is between them, Godfrey was told.

Kimball & Associates also advised that the tower at Upper Mountain fire station in Lewiston needs to grow by 50 feet, to 230 feet tall, to avoid signal disruption by power lines; and that the tower at Terry's Corners fire station in Royalton Center needs to grow by 20 feet, to 200 feet tall, because of a large tree nearby.

"These people drove around the whole county, drove around and drove around, and they didn't see these things?" Godfrey said. "Some line-of-sight issues may not have been discoverable (during the planning/project bidding process); perhaps the tree and the smokestack weren't clearly visible when technicians were standing at the sites. ... 

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