The mystery of who generated that picture claiming to represent what a new cell tower would look like if erected at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane has been solved.
The rendering was created by Stephen Morgan, who has an address listed on Gardiners Bay Drive. But Mr. Morgan’s phone is disconnected.
However, distribution of the picture to area residents via email was done by David Harms, a Cobbetts Lane resident who has publicly voiced concern about a cell tower at the firehouse.
A furious Commissioner Larry Lechmanski said Monday that the drawing had been posted on Facebook by Mr. Harms. When asked about the picture earlier this week, Mr. Harms said he wasn’t aware of any posting of a picture on Facebook.
It turns out the picture wasn’t posted on Facebook, but was distributed to many Islanders via email by Mr. Harms with accompanying text.
UPDATE: The picture wasn’t created to mislead anyone, Mr. Harms said later, but to reflect information offered at the February 24 Fire Commissioners meeting that suggested a new tower could be as high as 140 to 160 feet and the aim was to reflect that height compared with the firehouse, not to imply that the tower would be located next to or in front of the building.
What concerns Mr. Harms is that any proposal that might come forward — and none are on the table at the present time — should be evaluated by an independent engineer with the expertise to provide “impartial advice.” He also wants an engineer to determine if there might be other solutions to providing clear communications without erection of a second tower. And he points out that the engineer’s services would have to be funded by a developer seeking a permit to put up a tower, according to town code.
“Retaining an independent engineer will be critical in determining whether this proposal makes any sense or is permitted under the town code,” Mr. Harms said.
Mr. Lechmanski has since indicated that a new tower might be 120 feet — the same as the height of the tower at the town Recycling Center. Mr. Lechmanski explained that even though there is room for another emergency services antenna on that tower, the growth of trees and development of houses in the area mean that signals from the recycling center can’t reach the Hay Beach and Ram Island areas.
In his email, Mr. Harms wrote that the picture was a “computer rendering of a macro tower at the Cobbetts Lane station. It will give you a sense of the possibilities,” he wrote. In crediting Mr. Morgan with the drawing, Mr. Harms said he is “wonderfully good at design and drawing.”
At issue for Mr. Lechmanski is that the rendering misrepresents what might be considered at the site in terms of both its height and location. At the March 24 commissioners meeting, Mr. Lechmanski said the drawing was designed to upset people. It looks nothing like what Ed Mooney of East Islip-based Highlander described to the commissioners at a January meeting. He proposed an approximately 120-foot tower, not the seemingly 200-foot tower shown in the picture Mr. Harms distributed.
What’s more, Mr. Mooney’s construction would look like a white flagpole from which an American flag could be flown and antennae would be contained within the tower, not jutting out at all angles, as it appears in Mr. Morgan’s picture.
And while the picture shows a tower in front of the firehouse, if one is eventually constructed there, it would be situated behind the firehouse in line with town code that requires towers to be in a position where they can’t hit any adjoining property if they fall.
While Mr. Mooney met briefly with the fire commissioners in January, he made no formal proposal and hasn’t been back to a meeting since. He has been invited along with a representative of a second cell tower installation company to come to an April 28 meeting.
Mr. Mooney said what brought him to Shelter Island to search for a second tower site — his company constructed the tower at the town Recycling Center — were complaints from Hay Beach and Ram Island residents about a lack of reliable cell phone service in the area. But fire commissioners said their interest is motivated by spotty service for emergency workers in those areas and the anticipated need for a tower that could accommodate high band service to which Southold and Suffolk County are converting. Those two provide dispatching services for the Island as well as calls for mutual aid.
Currently, there is no formal proposal pending before the commission and should there be, it would still ultimately fall to the Town Board for review to ensure that any new tower met with the municipal code requirements.