The city of Hollywood and Broward County still don’t see eye-to-eye on where to put the new 911 radio equipment that would complete the overhaul of the emergency communications network countywide. However, the city commission did agree with the county on Wednesday on how to make a decision about it.
City commissioners voted 6 -1 to approve an interlocal agreement with Broward County that includes provisions to hire an independent expert to break a stalemate between two possible locations for the 911 radio equipment.
The only dissenting vote was Hollywood Vice Mayor Traci Callari.
“I do not think we will come to an agreement that is suitable for all," she said at voting time. "Let it go to the courts."
The more than nine-month long dispute has been over the county wanting to build a 911 radio tower in West Lake Park in Hollywood. Some Hollywood residents, and the city, want the tower’s antennae installed on the rooftop of an apartment building, The Circ.
Experts for the county argue the park is the best location for a tower but an expert hired by the city argues that The Circ is a more resilient, efficient spot to hold the technology.
The emergency equipment in East Hollywood is the last piece of a countywide upgrade of the 911 communications system, which had issues during the 2017 airport shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and during the school shooting in Parkland last year.
“To delay this process any more than it has been delayed, we feel, is putting our residents and all of our officers...and the firefighters at risk in this county," Lauderhill Police Deputy Allen Siegel told the city Wednesday night. He spoke on behalf of the Broward Police Chiefs Association.
The Broward County commission voted to approve the same agreement Tuesday. It includes a timeline for hiring the independent expert - which must be selected by the current experts for Hollywood and the County within the next 10 days - and hired by July 19.
On that timeline, construction for the new emergency equipment is expected to be complete by March 2020 - three months behind the original deadline for implementing the upgrades to the communications system.
Per the agreement, Hollywood and the county will split the cost for the third-party expert to decide which location is better. If the agreement is broken, or an expert can’t be chosen, the dispute may go to court.
To be chosen as the site for the equipment, The Circ must be proven to have radio signal coverage “equal to or better than” West Lake Park. Hollywood commissioners are also requiring as part of the deal, that if The Circ is chosen over West Lake Park, that county commissioners reinstate the environmental protections, called covenants, to the park. They were recently removed to make way for a 911 radio tower.
Hollywood commissioners also voted on two related measures — one agreeing not to spend more than $261,176 to evaluate The Circ as an alternative to the park — and another measure to rescind a vote from earlier this month, when the commission had originally rejected the county’s plan for West Lake Park. They will reconsider the county's plan at a meeting on July 3.
Residents expressed their concerns about the environment and safety, to Hollywood commissioners before the vote took place Wednesday.
“The decision concerns me,” Lisa Stingone said. She’s been leading the resident fight against building a tower in West Lake Park.
One of her main concerns is about what would happen to a tower in the park in the event of a Hurricane. She was living in Homestead during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
"There were no trees, there were no poles, there were no wires...no signs. Everything was just gone and empty," Stingone appealed to Hollywood commissioners. "The idea of having this tower in the park, and having it be inaccessible to be repaired makes me nervous. I think it makes more sense to have it on the Circ."
The West Lake Homeowners Association has plans to sue if the new expert chooses the park as the best site for the 911 radio equipment. South Florida land use attorney Tucker Gibbs represents them.
“The citizens are kind of left out of this,” Gibbs told WLRN. "This is a safety issue for them."