Town & Public Safety Communications System Project Update

public safety communications system
Avon, CT - October 13, 2021 - In December 2018, an appropriation of $3,890,000 was approved at referendum to replace the Town’s existing conventional analog public safety communication system with a 700 MHz communication system meeting the Project 25 (P25) standard. The project scope included the purchase and installation of a modern public safety communication system with related equipment, including dispatch consoles and user devices, and improvements to existing tower sites on Kingswood Drive and Deercliff Road. 
 
The Town’s existing tower location on Kingswood Drive is approximately 200 feet over the town line in Canton. The site is owned by CT Water and Village Developers. The Towns of Avon and Canton have had an easement agreement for the property since 1998 to construct, operate, repair, maintain and replace a communication antenna and facility on the site for public safety purposes. Modification to the site requires approval by each town.  In January 2020, Canton denied Avon’s request to make the modifications needed to accommodate the new system.
 
The loss of the Kingswood Site required the Town to find another location serving the western area of Town.  The land west of West Avon Road in Avon is almost exclusively zoned residential and open space.  Several alternate locations to the Kingswood Drive site were considered by staff but ultimately, we focused on an existing site located at the rear of the landfill located at 277 Huckleberry Hill Road.  
 
In 2004, the Town entered into an agreement with Sprint to locate a commercial cell tower, not to exceed 100 feet, at the rear of the landfill site.  Recently, at the Town’s request SBA, the current lessee, agreed to amend its existing lease agreement with the Town to permit a new tower to be built, not to exceed 150 feet. To meet our public safety coverage requirements, the tower height would need to be 130 feet and there would be two side-mount whip antennas, each measuring 16 feet high and approximately four inches in diameter, as well as and a directional panel antenna measuring 60” x 10.4” x 6”. 
 
This site meets the Town’s needs for communication purposes and satisfies C.G.S. 16-50 aa (a) which provides: “The General Assembly finds that the sharing of towers for fair consideration whenever technically, legally, environmentally and economically feasible, and whenever such sharing meets public safety concerns, will avoid the unnecessary proliferation of towers and is in the public interest.”
 
Per the Town Charter, a public hearing must be held before the Town Council can amend the agreement. The amendment to the existing agreement is the only issue before the Town Council.  The Town Council opened the public hearing at its October 7, 2021 meeting. The presentation from the October 7th meeting is available HERE. The hearing was subsequently continued to the Council’s November 4, 2021 meeting. The November 4th meeting agenda will be posted at www.avonct.gov/town-council.
 
Assuming the Town Council approves the amendment to the lease agreement, the tower owner would file an application with CT Siting Council (CSC) which has exclusive regulatory jurisdiction over these types of structures in Connecticut.  The CSC was created expressly for the purpose of vesting the decision making for these types of facilities in a state, rather than a local body. The CSC is responsible for balancing the need for adequate and reliable public utility services at the lowest reasonable cost to consumers with the need to protect public welfare and the environment. While the CSC must consider the environmental impacts associated with any application for a commercial cellular facility, the 1996 Telecommunications Act expressly preempts state and local government regulation of the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the effects of radio frequency emissions, so long as such facilities comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulations concerning such emissions