For the first time since the state imposed a 2 percent tax rate cap on spending, the Shelter Island Fire District expects it may have to pierce that cap as it prepares its 2018 budget.
Commissioners are ready to discuss the new budget proposal at a public hearing to be held at the Center Firehouse on Tuesday, October 17 at 7 p.m.
The additional spending results from an anticipated $125,000 cost for a higher cell tower at the Center Firehouse.
Tests conducted in the past year determined that the existing 65-foot tower is inadequate to receive high frequency band signals that can’t penetrate trees and other structures as efficiently as the existing low band signals. The conversion from low band to high band service is required by the Federal Communications Commission and in making the conversion, the Fire District will also have to purchase all new pagers for every firefighter.
The special permit needed for a new 120-foot tower at the firehouse has not yet been issued, but a public hearing on its installation could be scheduled before the end of this year.
In addition, the fire commissioners are awaiting a hearing on the pending new cell tower proposed for the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane. That is needed to improve communications in the areas of Hay Beach and the Rams, according to the commissioners.
Although that tower began as a means of improving cell phone service in those areas, the commissioners determined that firefighters responding to emergencies in those areas were encountering an inability to make calls for additional help without improved communications.
That new tower is pending approval of a special permit from the Town Board and if approved, it would need approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals for a rear lot line variance.
If the Cobbetts Lane tower is approved, the firefighters would be able to place their own antennae on that tower without cost and would also receive an initial $150,000 fee when the tower becomes functional. The district would also split fees on a 50-50 basis with Elite Towers for the various cell phone carriers who put their antennas on that tower.
The additional funds would ultimately offset the cost of the higher tower at the Center Firehouse and the ongoing fees from Elite would help to defray the cost of converting low band equipment to the high band frequency.