Construction began last week on the 100-foot-tall radio antenna that will theoretically quash communication problems among East Quogue Fire Department volunteers.
The pole and antenna will cost the East Quogue Fire District about $112,000 and should be installed by the end of June, according to East Quogue Fire Commissioner Allyn Jackson. The project is being funded through the district’s reserve fund, which now sits at approximately $200,000, so hamlet residents should not see an increase in their fire district taxes next year, he said.
Hinck Electrical Contractor Inc. of Bohemia will work with Integrated Wireless Technology of Quogue, both of which won the respective bids for the project, to construct the pole and install the antenna. According to Mr. Jackson, Hinck bid $88,000 for the construction of the pole and Integrated Wireless bid $24,000 to install the antenna and the necessary radio equipment.
“Based on our research, we feel that this will vastly improve our signal,” Mr. Jackson explained on Tuesday.
The current antenna sits on top of the Montauk Highway firehouse, about 50 feet off the ground, he said. By doubling the height of the antenna, the district hopes to extinguish the dead spots scattered through the hamlet.
The pole will be between 14 and 18 inches in diameter at its base, which was dug last week, and about five inches in diameter at the top. The district is also adding a siren to the pole as part of a communications upgrade that includes the siren, renovations to the department’s radio room and updating portable radios for responders.
The total budget for the project was estimated at $190,000 before the bids for the antenna were awarded. Mr. Jackson did not have an update on the exact figures when reached Tuesday.
Members of the community expressed disdain for the project early on. Some are concerned with the pole falling onto neighboring properties, but Mr. Jackson assured the public at a hearing last summer that even if it does fall, it will remain on fire department property.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s not unanimous,” Mr. Jackson said, referring to the lack of support among hamlet residents, “but we believe we’re doing the right thing to protect the citizens of East Quogue.”
One resident, Anna Brinsmade, said she is still worried about the unforeseen side effects that the antenna could produce. She lives in East Quogue with her husband, John, and their two children, Katia, 17 and Nick, 14. Ms. Brinsmade said her entire family fears the radio waves that the tower will emit.
“My main concern is the health issue,” she said in a phone interview last week. “We’re getting more and more information about [negative effects] of radio and cell tower frequencies.”
She also said she is not the only person who has expressed concerned about how the pole will look in the hamlet. “East Quogue is a quaint, small town,” Ms. Brinsmade added. “To have a 100-foot monstrosity is urban blight.”
Mr. Jackson said those concerns, and others, were taken into consideration but, ultimately, the final decision was up to the fire district’s commissioners who determined that the improved communications will benefit the entire community.
Additionally, he also stressed this week that there are no plans, now or in the future, to modify the antenna so it could also serve as a cellphone tower, as some residents had feared last summer.