HUNTER — Hunter town officials raised questions Tuesday about a proposal for a new radio communications tower, saying community input is needed.

In November, the Greene County Legislature approved the 120-foot radio tower that will be erected about 500 feet off Route 23A adjacent to Hunter Town Hall. Officials lamented Tuesday that the project was not submitted to the town planning board.

“Our concerns are purely that we’d like to have the tower presented to the public, similarly to what we do with most building projects with that type of impact so the public is aware and able to make comments,” Councilman David Kukle said. “The tower is going to make a lasting impact on what the environment looks like and the scenery.”

Councilman Sean Mahoney agreed.

“As presented, I’m not in support of it,” he said. “In particular, one of my main issues is that we are not getting any community input. The nature of this, the way this transaction is going through, would exempt it from planning board review — which is one of the things we asked and they said they would do — is going through the planning board review.”

Kukle was also under the impression the project, which the county put out to bid in March, was going to be submitted to the town planning board, he said.

“In our first meetings with the county, it was inferred that, even though not required by law, they would do that as a good neighbor,” Kukle said.

The tower will have a visual impact on the town, Mahoney added.

“I’m concerned about a permanent addition to our viewshed that would not be removable. And you have to weigh what those benefits are,” he said.

Mahoney said he was unclear why the tower was necessary.

“We weren’t really given a great scientific explanation of why this tower is needed,” he said. “One thing we were told is that in order to gain the coverage they need, this would not have been added if the Twilight Tower was placed where it should have been. So now, because of a mistake being made somewhere, we now need a new tower. I think the board is trying to act in the best interest of the town and hear from our community what their input is and if they support this tower.”

The relay tower is necessary to make the Twilight Park tower fully functional, Emergency Manager Specialist Daniel King said. Towers need to be in direct line of sight to transmit microwaves.

The tower in Twilight Park is using a cellular connection to communicate, which is much slower than a microwave system, King said.

“[The Twilight Park tower] is critical because it covers North and South Lake, Kaaterskill Falls and Horseshoe Bend,” King said. “None of the other radio towers provide coverage in that area.”

Kukle also expressed a concern about additional towers coming in the future.

“We want to understand better what the county’s plans are moving forward,” he said. “Are they planning on putting towers in other towns or in other communities on the mountaintop? We want to know what the big plan is so there’s no segmentation on planning design.”

Improvements to the county’s radio system, which switched to a high-band frequency in September 2019, will continue for several more years, King said.

“We still need to build out more sites, not necessarily towers,” he said. “The idea is to build a complete ring from one tower to another, to the 911 center and back-up center [Greene County Office Building] so that if something happens at any one location, radio traffic goes the other way and we don’t have any critical failures.”

Specific locations for radio communication points are a work in progress, King said.

“We can’t build the next one until the one before it is done,” he said. “With all the mountains and valleys, we’re trying to shoot microwave signals through notches. Where a tower gets built versus where it was planned to be built will change where the tower after it needs to be placed.”

The tower will be funded by a grant from the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, King said, estimating the project will cost about $250,000.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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