HUNTER — A new radio communications tower proposed for Hunter will improve emergency services on the mountaintop, legislators said.

Greene County lawmakers passed a resolution Monday establishing the county’s intent to be lead agency on the project, which will require a state environmental quality review.

The 120-foot radio tower will serve as a relay point between the tower at Twilight Park and the tower atop Hunter Mountain.

“It’s going to better facilitate the communication between down below in the valley and what goes on up here,” Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg said. “That’s the whole idea of it. They needed [the tower] to fill a blind spot.”

The tower will be constructed about 400 to 500 feet off Route 23A adjacent to Hunter Town Hall and 300 feet from the Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway. Construction will disturb 0.22 acres of the 1-acre parcel, according to the environmental review form. Additionally, the project will affect a 0.33-acre wetland and requires approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“To the extent that it expands service to areas that don’t have service, it’s wonderful,” Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, said. “We have mountainous terrain. Once you cross over a given ridge, you find little or no service.”

The tower will be used by emergency services, not cell service carriers, although there is space available on the tower, Emergency Manager Specialist Daniel King said.

The relay tower is necessary to make the Twilight Park tower fully functional, 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.”

Historically, calls from the Kaaterskill Falls area are sometimes directed to other counties depending on which tower a 911 call bounces off, King said.

The Twilight Park tower is a cell-coverage tower, used by AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

“Now when people call 911 from within that area, the calls hit the Twilight Tower and those calls are answered by the Greene County 911 Center,” King said.

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.

“We’re expecting to release the [Request for Proposals] in December or January, so that as soon as weather permits, the selected vendor can start,” he said.

King hopes the tower will be operational June 1, but said it may take longer.

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.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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