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Manhanset Firehouse cell tower close to approval

From left, attorney John Coughlin, engineer Greg Nawrotski, noise expert Quan Tat and Manhanset Firehouse neighbor David Harms discuss issues to be resolved before a new cell tower can be erected on the Cobbetts Lane site.

Perhaps a handshake says it all.

Fire Commissioner Larry Lechmanski shook hands with David Harms, a neighbor of the Manhanset Firehouse, at the October 19 hearing on the proposed cell tower on the firehouse grounds.

Mr. Harms led the opposition to the cell tower, initially suggesting there could be alternatives to inconsistent signal service in Hay Beach and Ram Island. He was instrumental in getting the previous Town Board to hire a consultant to examine the possibilities.

The initial call for a tower at the site came from cell phone customers complaining to their carriers about dropped calls.

But with the transition from the current low-band to eventual high-band radio service, the fire commissioners said they needed a tower where they would be able to place their antenna to handle calls firefighters might make for backup assistance when fighting a blaze in the same areas where cell calls were being dropped.

Two attorneys hope to work out final details that will allow the 120-foot tower to be erected.

At issue is containment of noise from a generator that Verizon plans for the site and possible other generators that additional operators might want to install.

John Coughlin of Ré, Nielsen, Huber & Coughlin in Huntington brought two experts to the hearing to spell out plans for noise containment. Mr. Harms’ attorney, Frank Isler of Smith, Finkelstein, Lundberg, Isler and Yakaboski in Riverhead, wants assurances that the noise abatement will be sufficient for the Verizon generator and all other generators.

Mr. Coughlin said that any applications from other providers would have to be approved by the Town Board and be required to meet the same restrictions on sound.

Greg Nawrotzki of Dewberry Engineers of New Jersey outlined plans for a three-sided wall with acoustical materials that would absorb sound from the generator. Mr. Nawrotzki said a four sided structure could result in sounds reverberating beyond the structure.

Quan Tat of Air Quality & Noise of Massachusetts said, with a 6-foot wall, the sounds would be contained below the 39.3 decibels both sides had previously agreed would be optimal. But Mr. Harms and Mr. Isler asked for an 8-foot wall, while another neighbor wanted a fourth wall on the proposed open side that would face her property.

The 8-foot height would require a ZBA variance. Mr. Coughlin agreed to file papers for a ZBA hearing immediately on the chance that a variance might be necessary. He and Mr. Isler are working to iron out the differences that remain between the two sides.

Commissioner Lechmanski reminded the board and the two lawyers that only 14 months remain before the current low-band frequencies will disappear and the Fire Department will need high-band service that can only be effective with the tower in place.

It was evident that the board wants to approve the special permit needed for the cell tower and with the two sides close to an agreement, they appealed to the lawyers to work out the details.