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Shelter Island cell tower plan moving forward

Word has come that one of the most dedicated firefighters in Shelter Island history has passed away.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Fire Commissioners met at the the Center firehouse to discuss cell tower proposals.

If opponents of a cell tower at the Manhansett Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane thought no news was good news, their hopes could be dashed by the latest word from Shelter Island Fire Commissioners.

“We’re getting closer,” said Fire Commission Chairman Andy Reeve.

The commissioners have made some changes to a proposed contract with Elite Towers of Deer Park and sent it back to Director of Operations and Managing Partner Justin Saper. If Mr. Saper agrees to the latest changes, the contract could be finalized by the commissioners at their August 24 meeting and then the proposal would be sent to the Town Board for its review and possible issuance of required permits.

Mr. Saper said Elite would pay the fire district $150,000 initially and then split the annual profits it received from renting space on the tower to various cellphone service providers.

The original contract with Elite set a 180-day clock running last September, but the revised contract extends that time period. During the 180 days, the commissioners could back out of any agreement.

The commissioners have been clear they believe a tower at the Cobbetts Lane property would improve communications among emergency responders in that area.

The call for a new tower actually started with cellphone users who complained about dropped calls in parts of Hay Beach and the Rams, according to a representative of Highlander Consultants in East Islip.

Those objecting to the proposed tower have voiced safety concerns, both from radiation to the possibility of a tower falling on their property.

The Federal Communications Commission has rejected using arguments about radiation to try to stop cell tower projects. Those who build them insist they can withstand high winds and storms and if they did collapse, they wouldn’t fall sideways onto property. Instead they collapse into themselves.

As for aesthetics — another concern of critics — Elite argues the look of the tower is similar to a flagpole and would have the Stars and Stripes flag mounted on the pole.

The Town Board, anticipating it would receive a request to review the proposal — either issuing necessary special permits, modifying the proposal or rejecting it outright — identified an independent consultant months ago to be charged with reviewing the plan once it arrives at Town Hall.