With little discussion or fanfare, Sag Harbor Village Trustees passed a resolution Tuesday night to seek proposals from cell phone companies to rebuild and modernize an existing antenna behind the Sag Harbor Fire Department headquarters on Brick Kiln Road, and to install transmission equipment inside the Municipal Building cupola.
The request for proposals is the product of two years of research by Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire, who took on the project with an eye on improving public safety with the creation of better communication systems for the village. The towers are also expected to create a new revenue source to the village through leases to cell phone providers.
“From our perspective, we only have one cell phone tower in the village — at the Suffolk County Water Authority tank Division Street,” said Chief McGuire on Wednesday morning. “From a public safety standpoint, moving forward into the 21st century we need this improvement in technology.”
While Sag Harbor contracts with East Hampton Village for 911 dispatch services, if a call is picked up by an existing tower in Noyac, rather than the Division Street antenna, it is funneled to Southampton dispatchers, who then must transfer it back to East Hampton. “There is time lost there in the case of an emergency,” said the chief, adding that mobile technology, including the use of GPS, is a critical aspect of modern public safety, and that Sag Harbor is challenged in the summer by an abundance of people using limited cell phone service.
The tower behind the firehouse, said Chief McGuire, is already in poor condition and would be rebuilt at its current height of about 90 feet. “It’s really on its last legs, and we want to replace the tower with something modern and safe. Whoever leases the tower will pay to build it, but we will be able to install our own equipment on the tower as well,” he said. The chief said he believed additional providers would also have space available to lease on that tower.
The antennas set up in the Municipal Building cupola would not be visible to the public, he said, and because of space restraints would likely only be leased to one provider.
While not a part of the current request for proposals, Chief McGuire and Trustee Ken O’Donnell said on Wednesday the village may consider a third site for a cell phone tower: the 26-acre parcel owned by the village on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. A small portion of that property is now leased by Southampton Town for its transfer station.
“The [Main Street] fire exposed a problem in our communications. Calls were getting dropped and we have a lot of dead zones, so hopefully additional towers will be able to address some of these things,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “This could also be a new revenue stream for the village, which could help us move forward with other projects.”