“Have more towers at lower heights been explored? Can we take a quick look at that?” Councilman Rich Dippolito asked a representative of Commdex, the Norcross-based consultant contracted to manage the radio tower project for the city.
“We’re not given any options. Does it make sense to go out and look at other opportunities?”
Towers have been proposed at the city fire station on Cox Road, at the public works site on Hembree Road and on city-owned property on Fouts Road across from the Twelvestones subdivision.
They would plug holes in existing radio coverage for first responders and would be part of a new North Fulton Radio System linking Milton, Roswell, Alpharetta and Sandy Springs.
The Fouts Road site was not on the Monday agenda, but that didn’t stop residents of that area from showing up. Some of them, along with others who live near Cox Road, questioned the wisdom of installing 400-foot towers so close to residential neighborhoods.
Others said the city should stay with the radio system Fulton County has, which is planned for an overhaul.
According to the city’s consultants, the county is planning to spend $19 million on a system covering the entire county, not just north Fulton. The expanded coverage for the North Fulton Radio Authority’s unified system would cost around $16 million.
“You can’t do twice the area for 10 percent more cost,” Mayor Jere Wood said. “They will not be able to provide the level of coverage the North Fulton Authority would.”
City Administrator Kay Love said the authority has been trying to negotiate with the county for a shared system that would include north Fulton’s new and existing towers, but staff has been unable to make any progress.
Meanwhile, the need for the new towers is urgent, according to Roswell’s emergency responders. Police Chief Rusty Grant said that the existing system has failed eight times in the last 11 months.
On a recent SWAT call-out, officers were unable to communicate with each other, he said.
Failing to get any takers for a motion to approve the two sites, Councilwoman Becky Wynn, council liaison for public safety, amended it to approve just the Hembree Road site. The Cox and Fouts road sites would then come before council Sept. 11.
Wynn said the delay will give Commdex time to run some computer simulations showing what coverage could be obtained using more and shorter towers, as well as an idea of how much more such a plan would cost.
That motion passed unanimously.