Broward County Approves 911 Radio Tower Agreement; Hollywood To Vote Wednesday
The dispute between Broward County and City of Hollywood officials over where to put a new 911 radio tower is one step closer to solution.
County commissioners voted Tuesday to approve an agreement with Hollywood with provisions for choosing an independent expert to pick the site for the new tower as early as the end of this month .
The tower is the last one needed to complete an upgrade to Broward's 911 communication system. The countywide network experienced issues during the 2017 airport shooting in Fort Lauderdale and again during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year.
The county has been pushing to build the tower in West Lake Park in Hollywood but the city wants the emergency equipment to be placed on the rooftop of an apartment building called The Circ.
The strict timeline in the agreement indicates the independent expert must be identified by both the county and city's existing experts by June 29, and hired by July 19. With that schedule, construction is expected to be complete by March 2020. That's three months behind the original deadline for implementation of countywide 911 communications system upgrades.
The agreement the county approved Tuesday stipulates that Hollywood is responsible for paying the cost difference if The Circ is chosen and installation there would cost more than putting the tower in West Lake Park. In order to be chosen, The Circ rooftop would also need "equal or better" radio signal coverage than the park.
"This agreement is an important and essential step forward to getting the emergency communications radio system up and running as soon as possible," County Commissioner Tim Ryan said, prior to the vote. "If we don't enter into this agreement....we would be looking at a delay far in excess of three months."
Broward commissioners also voted on precautionary measures to keep the ability to pursue legal action against Hollywood - and to pursue a third location for the tower at a water treatment plant, if Hollywood were to decide to tear down a smaller existing tower there and construct the larger 911 radio tower in its place.
"It's the easiest way to get this done right now," said County Commissioner Michael Udine. He proposed the alternative plan.
Some Hollywood residents opposed to building the tower in West Lake Park have expressed concerns about its resiliency during hurricanes, and constructing it in an area containing wetlands.
"Once this decision is made, it will be very hard to change," Lisa Stingone said. She's been leading the resident charge against putting the tower in the park.
Another city resident told commissioners he does not oppose the tower going in West Lake Park.
"I'm all for the environment, but I'm not against location," Jack Izzo said. "I think where you guys proposed it...[the park] is a great location."
Last week, Hollywood voted on what terms they wanted included in the agreement with the county, and gave staff the go-ahead to write up a draft of the agreement.
Before they voted to move forward with the agreement, county commissioners still had questions, and some criticized the city.
"I don't think we vetted them as an expert from this county's point of view," Udine said about the City of Hollywood's expert who reccomended The Circ location.
He was the only vote against accepting the agreement with the City of Hollywood.
"Now we have to get a third expert that is going to be... deciding basically how the backbone of the county radio system, or a significant piece of it, is going to go into effect. I think that's the wrong way to do this," Udine said.
City commissioners in Hollywood must also vote to approve the agreement with the county before the third-party expert can be hired and his inspection of both sites can begin. The vote is expected to take place Wednesday, just after 5 p.m.
"This continues to cook a little bit," Broward County Attorney, Andrew Meyers told county commissioners about the final agreement with Hollywood. "We expect there to be additional changes."
WLRN will be providing continuing coverage of this issue Wednesday.