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Tamarac Delays Vote On Deal With Broward County That Could Allow For New 911 Tower

Sam Turken
The Tamarac City Commission on Wednesday delayed a vote on a deal that could allow Broward County to build a new emergency radio tower in West Lake Park in Hollywood.

Broward County’s hopes of building a new emergency communications tower in the county-owned West Lake Park in Hollywood suffered another setback Wednesday night when Tamarac commissioners deferred a vote on a deal necessary to begin construction of the tower.

The agreement under consideration by the Tamarac City Commission involved a complicated real estate swap that would have given the city ownership of the park. The deal would bypass a Broward mandate that county parkland be used solely for recreational and park purposes.

The county is still engaged in a monthslong dramatic disagreement with the city of Hollywood over the location of the tower. Hollywood cites environmental concerns to constructing the tower in West Lake Park and says placing it atop the Circ Hotel would be cheaper and provide better coverage. The dispute has already delayed the construction of the tower by at least three months.

Tamarac commissioners on Wednesday said they wanted to stay out of the feud and delay consideration of the deal. 

"I would certainly like to see the county continue to work with [Hollywood] to see that there’s a way that there are no hard feelings between the county and the city," Tamarac Vice Mayor Debra Placko said. "No city likes to get involved in another city’s business." 

Broward will now have to either come to an agreement with Hollywood or find another city that could participate in a deal similar to the one with Tamarac.

The tower is the last of 16 around Broward needed to complete a countywide upgrade after the aging 911  communications system experienced delays during the mass shootings at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2017 and in Parkland in 2018. The towers allow firefighters, police and other emergency responders to communicate via radio with each other and dispatchers.

The disagreement between the county and Hollywood was supposed to be settled last month when an independent consultant chose the West Lake Park location over the Circ Hotel as the best site for the tower. But last week Hollywood learned that Broward’s charter prevents it from building the tower in West Lake Park unless the county gives up ownership of the park. City-owned parkland, however, can host the tower.

As an end-around to the charter, Broward planned to purchase three privately held acres in the Long Key Natural Area in Davie and give the property to Tamarac. The city would then trade the Long Key land for the West Lake Park parcel. Tamarac would approve construction of the 325-foot tower in the park and even benefit from the deal because it would lease West Lake back to the county for $62,400 per year.

Broward offered other cities a chance to participate in a similar deal, but they all declined. Wednesday night’s meeting was an opportunity to push through the construction of the tower in West Lake Park without Hollywood’s consent.

The meeting drew Broward commissioners and several parents of the victims of the Parkland school shooting in support of the deal. Hollywood residents and city commissioners also showed up, asking Tamarac to delay a vote on the agreement.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the shooting, said he was in disbelief over Tamarac’s decision.

“Nothing I do will bring her back or bring any of the 16 others that we lost that day back. What we should be doing is learning the lessons. We should be putting the public safety first,” Petty said outside Tamarac’s commission chamber after the vote. (Petty sits on the Marjory Stoneman Public Safety Commission, which is tasked with investigating the Parkland shooting and has urged Hollywood to agree to the West Lake location.)

Tamarac Mayor Michelle Gomez was the lone member of the commission who disagreed with deferring a decision on the deal. She wanted the city to make a final decision Wednesday night.

Broward Commissioner Michael Udine said the county now has to move forward with another plan to complete the upgrade to the 911 system. He called for an end to the disagreement with Hollywood. 

“This shouldn't be a fight between the county and the cities,” said Udine, who represents the Tamarac and Parkland areas. "This radio system is something that needs to be done. ... Let's just get there already."

Hollywood had threatened to pursue legal action if Tamarac approved the deal. Hollywood commissioners said they did not know about the county’s charter mandate when they first agreed to let the independent consultant decide on the location of the tower.

With the deal with Tamarac now on hold, Hollywood Commissioner Caryl Shuham said she’s hopeful the county and city can finally break their impasse. She said the Broward charter mandate that county parkland only be used for park purposes boosts Hollywood’s argument that the tower should not be in West Lake Park. Some county commissioners have recently expressed more openness to building the tower atop the Circ Hotel, she added.

“I’m grateful for the city of Tamarac,” Shuham said after the vote. “[Hollywood] and the county have the same goal … and that is to have a complete emergency communications system in place that benefits all citizens of Broward County.”

Correction: A sentence in the original version of this story referred to the city, not county charter. The story has been updated. We regret the error.

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