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Consultant Selects West Lake Park Over Hotel For Controversial 911 Radio Tower In Hollywood

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission
Caitie Switalski
Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, left, and director of regional public safety and emergency services Tracy Jackson, right, answer questions about Broward County's last new 911 radio tower on Aug.14, 2019.

This story has been updated with an additional statement at 1:55 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16.

An independent consultant has deemed West Lake Park the best location for where a disputed 911 radio communications tower should be built in the city of Hollywood.

In a report released Friday by the firm Monetti and Associates, Broward County's site preference — the park — was evaluated against the city's preference, the rooftop of a hotel and mixed-used building called The Circ. 

"We find this to be a very firm conclusion," the report states. "Even if cost is not considered there are many strong advantages to [West Lake Park] over Circ."

After more than 11 months of dispute, county and city officials agreed at a June meeting to jointly commission the independent consultant to make a decision about where the emergency radio equipment should go.

Both the county and city agreed that the consultant's decison would be binding. 

"I'm very disapointed," said Lisa Stingone, who's been leading the Hollywood resident group against putting the tower in the park.

Residents who live near the park had previously said they would pursue legal action if the consultant selected the park over The Circ building. Shortly after the report was released, Stingone said it was too early to comment on any future legal action. 

People who do not want the 325-foot metal tower to be located in West Lake Park have expressed environmental concerns, and resiliency concerns in the event of a hurricane. The park is popular for kayakers because of its mangrove estuary. It is located west of the Intracoastal Waterway.

The city commission backed resident opposition and said it would help pay for the extra cost of installing antennae on The Circ's rooftop, if the consultant could prove The Circ had "equal or better" radio signal coverage than the park. 

The report found The Circ would have adequate coverage and is more centrally located, but would not provide a better coverage pattern than West Lake Park's location can. 

Broward 911
Credit Monetti and Associates. / WLRN
A map from the consultant report shows the differences in radio signal coverage. Circ Hotel site is the left image, and West Lake Park is on the right. Park better covers airport report finds, while Circ better covers north Miami-Dade County.

The City of Hollywood sent the following statement, via email: "City staff are reviewing the independent report that assesses both West Lake Park and CIRC Hotel as the location for a second emergency radio communications site within the City of Hollywood. Throughout the tower siting process, the City’s goal has always been to place this equipment in the best possible location to provide for the security and safety of all Broward County residents."

Read More: Broward County Commission To Vote On Hollywood Park As Site For New 911 Radio Tower

The 911 tower will be the 16th in the system and last that needs to be constructed in Broward County to complete the upgrade of emergency communications equipment, countywide.

County commissioners have felt a sense of urgency to get the emergency upgrade completed as quickly as possible, after communication failures during both the 2017 airport shooting in Fort Lauderdale, and the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. 

The last tower needed in Hollywood will provide emergency coverage for Southeast Broward County, including Hallandale Beach and Dania Beach. 

The delay in getting the last tower constructed has set back the county's rollout of the emergency communications network update by roughly three months. What was going to launch by the end of this year, will now hopefully be launched sometime in the first quarter of 2020, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry said Wednesday — prior to the release of the consultant report. 

Henry was reporting to the statewide commission that's been investigating the Parkland school shooting. It has also been investigating communication failures with Broward's regional 911 system. 

At a meeting in Sunrise earlier this week, commission chairman Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he considers progressing with updates to the county's 911 system, "the most significant pending issue" for the commission.

Once the report was released Friday, Henry said in a statement, in part: "...Our E911 system today is far better than the legacy system inherited at consolidation, and it will continue to improve as we keep putting public safety first."
County officials also said they will immediatley begin start the process to construct the tower at West Lake Park.
You can read the full report, below: 

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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