Featured Story

Cell tower’s attorney: No stalling on project

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Richard Surozenski seeks re-election as a fire commissioner.
Richard Surozenski seeks re-election as a fire commissioner.

Is Elite Towers stalling in moving an application forward to construct a cell tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane?

“That’s not the case,” said attorney John Coughlin of Huntington-based Ré, Nielsen, Huber & Coughlin in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. He represents Deer Park-based Elite in obtaining approval from the town to begin construction.

At Monday night’s Fire Commissioners meeting, Andy Reeve, who has been shepherding the project forward, told his colleagues he thought Elite might be stalling because it has only one contract in hand from Verizon to put an antenna on the tower. It is still negotiating with Sprint and T-Mobile, hoping that both will want to put antennae on the tower.

But that’s not what’s delaying the application process, Mr. Coughlin said.
When he appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals in August, he had a team of technical experts prepared to testify about the need for the tower.

Instead, it was decided that rather than move forward with the ZBA on a lot line variance needed for the tower, it would be best to resubmit an application to the Town Board for the special permit needed for erection of any cell tower.

Revising the application has resulted in that team of experts needing time to provide updated information, Mr. Coughlin said.

Among the requirements is a noise study in the area that Verizon was to conduct that is still outstanding, according to Mr. Reeve.

“I’m trying to push them as fast as I can,” Mr. Coughlin said.

The attorney said he intended to make a round of calls to those experts and also to Elite Towers Managing Partner Justin Saper to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Mr. Coughlin had hoped to submit a revised application to the Town Board in November. He hopes the paperwork is in order in December, he said, with the possibility of getting on the Town Board’s schedule in January.

Fire commissioners are anxious to see the project move forward for a number of reasons:
• They would receive a $100,000 initial payment for allowing the cell tower to be constructed at the Manhanset Firehouse and that money would likely fund the need for a higher tower at the Center Firehouse to accommodate high band communications equipment the government is requiring fire departments to use.
• They would be able to place their own antenna on the tower at the Manhanset Firehouse to improve emergency communications in that area without charge.
• They would receive ongoing revenue by splitting profits other users pay for placing their antennae on the tower.

Those revenues would help cover the cost of new radios the department needs as it transfers from low to high band service.

A group of area residents have been protesting placement of the tower at the firehouse. David Harms, an attorney with property behind the firehouse, has hired Frank Isler of Smith, Finklestein, Lundberg, Isler & Yakaboski of Riverhead to fight the Elite Towers application.

With the closing of the Capital One branch on the Island, the commissioners are planning to move their accounts to either Chase or Bridgehampton National Bank. They’re still exploring the services each can offer.

Among the Fire District’s requirements is the ability to either have a safety deposit box at a branch where important documents can be kept, or to purchase a safe to place cash there after such events as the annual Chicken Barbecue and County Fair.

Temporarily, such items are being kept in a safe at a venue not being disclosed by the Reporter.

Richard Surozenski is running unopposed for another five-year term as a fire commissioner. A firefighter since 1965, he’s been a commissioner for 22 years.

He is currently chairman of the district’s Board of Fire Commissioners.
The election is Tuesday, December 12 between 6 and 9 p.m. at the Center Firehouse. Because there is no other candidate on the ballot, voting will be by paper ballot, not machine, in line with the district’s policies.