Montauk Fire Chief Vincent Franzone was joined by fire department officials from across East Hampton during the East Hampton Town Board work session October 9, once again sounding the alarm over the aging communications system currently in place. “The current towers that we have now are over 20 years old,” Chief Franzone said.
“I’ve been in a situation where there is no communication” during a fire, the chief said. “It is a horrible place to be. It causes havoc.” Chief Franzone said that the current system is so old, new parts are no longer manufactured.
East Hampton Fire Chief Gerard Turza Jr. addressed the board next. He pointed to the Sag Harbor Cinema fire in December 2016, during which he had to order his men out of the interior for safety’s sake. He was unable to communicate with one of the men involved. That firefighter had to be rescued from the third floor, Chief Turza said.
Manny Vilar, a candidate for town board, spoke in his capacity as head of the New York State Policemen’s Benevolent Association. Beside supporting the proposed Montauk project, he also urged the board to step in in the Springs fire department’s efforts to utilize an antenna on their property. Also speaking in support of swift action for the tower was Montauk Fire Commissioner Richard Schoen, Amagansett Fire Chief William Beckert, and former Montauk Fire Chief Peter Joyce.
The plan the town board is considering in Montauk is the replacement of the 158-foot tall communications tower near the entrance to the Montauk recycling center with a 300-foot-tower. Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said he understood that aesthetically a new 300-foot tall tower might not be pleasing to some, but that “We will be forced to choose between aesthetics and emergency communication.”
The East Hampton Planning Department prepared an environmental assessment form for town board members, a required step under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Edward Schnell, communications technician with the East Hampton Town police, then walked the board through the various plans to improve communications in times of crisis. Schnell said that the town had considered raising the antenna located behind the courthouse in the East Hampton Town government complex on Pantigo Road, but that was not possible due to Federal Aviation Administration rules regarding flight paths to the East Hampton Airport.
Schnell said that $250,000 has been budgeted for the Montauk tower, which will be placed north of the two towers currently standing on the west side of the entrance to the recycling center.
The next step for the town board will be to decide whether or not to make a positive SEQRA declaration. This would mean the planning department would have to prepare an environmental impact statement for the board to consider before moving forward. The East Hampton Town Board was scheduled to discuss their next step October 16.
Chief Franzone urged the public to support the Montauk proposal. “Without this upgrade, we are kind of dead in the water. We can’t respond as quickly as we need to.”