Hollywood Commissioners And Residents Outraged Over Broward County's 911 Radio Tower Deals

Sep 9, 2019

A dispute between the city of Hollywood and Broward County over where to put a 911 radio tower was supposed to be settled once and for all last month. That's when a consultant's report was released, choosing the county's preferred location of West Lake Park over the city of Hollywood's favored option,  the rooftop of a hotel called The Circ.

Well, it turns out the issue of where the tower will end up is not settled anymore.

 


Building the tower in West Lake Park would require the county to engage in a complicated real estate swap, giving ownership of the park - which is in Hollywood - to the City of Tamarac. 

"Unbelievable. It's unbelievable," Commissioner Caryl Shuham said at an emergency public meeting at Hollywood City Hall Monday.

Hollywood city commissioners say they didn’t know about the property switch until it was reported in the Sun Sentinel last week. 

"There's heartburn here as you can imagine," Shuham said to county officials. 

Longtime Commissioner Dick Blattner put it this way: "To me, this was a matter of trust that I think was violated."

After almost a year of debating about where the tower would go, the county had started moving forward with a plan to it in West Lake Park. Because of regulations in its charter [see pages 20 and 21 here], Broward County can't build the tower on park land that it owns. However, it can build can on land owned by a municipality if they swap it with other park land. 

So, officials are looking to buy a park in Davie that they've wanted for a long time - the Long Key Natural Area and Nature Center. Then, the county would let the City of Tamarac take it over, and swap it in exchange for West Lake Park, in Hollywood. 

The county would pay Tamarac rent for the park, and the northwestern city would have the authority to give the OK to build the last 911 radio tower in the Hollywood park. 

 

"With all due respect, the devil is in the details," Hollywood Vice Mayor Traci Callari told county officials at the meeting Monday.

Hollywood Commissioners had agreed at the end of June to join the county and get an independent consultant to choose which location is best for the tower. Now, they are looking into potential legal options to void the deal.

"The terms of the agreement were not based on fully-disclosed information ... the information's void," Shuham argued. 

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

The emergency communications tower is the last one needed to complete a countywide 911 upgrade mandated after problems with the system caused delays during the shootings at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport and in Parkland.

The dispute over which location for the equipment is the fastest, cheapest, and has the best radio coverage, has already set the upgrade back by at least three months.

"Whatever happens at this point, happens,"  Broward County's attorney, Andrew Meyers said. "Our only goal is to get to the finish line and get this very expensive, very necessary system online to protect everyone."

Broward’s Mayor, Mark Bogen, assured the Hollywood commissioners that the necessary land deals to build the tower were not kept secret during negotiations. 

"It was discussed before anything was signed," Bogen said. 

He tried to appease the city officials with a promise to ask the county commission to reconsider The Circ hotel location for the emergency communications equipment.

"We're not the enemy. We're not trying to bully you," Bogen said. "I will be talking to [the county commissioners] on your behalf."

Commissioners weren't the only ones upset with the new development in the debate. Hollywood residents lined up to express frustration with the county. 

 

"I am really disappointed in my county government," Hollywood resident Lisa Stingone said.

"None of this makes any sense," Lisa Stingone said. "Why was it just brought up? Why wasn't the city of Hollywood given first preference to do this land swap...and the city of Tamarac was given this opportunity? Something is wrong here and we can't let this continue to happen."

Next, Broward County commissioners will discuss what to do on Tuesday. City officials in Tamarac will consider if they want to participate in the land swap deal on Wednesday. 

Hollywood City officials will reevaluate and take the matter up again on Thursday, where they could likely pursue legal action.