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Jun 25, 2019 3:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Long Awaited Emergency Antennas Coming To Montauk

County land on a hilltop above East Lake Drive mah finally be getting a new radio antenna that will improve emergency communications around Montauk Point.
Jun 25, 2019 3:48 PM

After more than a decade of pressing, Suffolk County and local officials are celebrating the approvals of new radio communications antennas in Montauk.

They say the new antennas, to be erected on two steel poles on a hilltop above East Lake Drive, will finally allow emergency responders and law enforcement officers to be able to communicate near Montauk Point and in other areas with chronically poor radio reception.

The antennas will go where a series of older wooden poles now stand at a former U.S. Air Force GATR station, as it and other Cold War-era radio guidance stations throughout North America were known. The 6.5-acre property is now owned by Suffolk County.

The two new poles will replace two of the wooden ones and will stand the same 85 feet in height. But they will be strong enough to support new communications antennas for the Suffolk County Police Department, as well as East Hampton Town Police dispatching to police and fire departments.

“It will be a great step forward for public safety in East Hampton,” Montauk Fire Department Chief Dave Ryan said this week. “Once you get over the hill into [Montauk Point State Park], communications are line-of-sight only right now, usually. And out by the lighthouse, we have a very hard time reaching dispatch—like, if we need to get a helicopter in the air or whatever.”

The county initially proposed erecting the new antennas on the site in 2008 to address poor radio communications in the areas east of downtown Montauk. The project languished because of funding shortages and permitting requirements, particularly from the Federal Aviation Administration, which hesitated to allow new antennas to go up so near to the runway at Montauk Airport.

But earlier this year, the FAA finally signed off on the project after the county agreed to make the new poles no higher than the existing poles at the site.

“The day those approvals came through, I did a little dance in my office,” said Michael Postel, the director of communications for the Suffolk County Police Department, said. “We will still be following the standard process from here and forwarding to the county DPW for project review.”

Mr. Postel said the county hopes to have the new antennas in and operational by the end of the year.

East Hampton Town will also be placing new equipment on the towers as an adjunct to the $8 million updating of its entire town's emergency communications systems. The addition of the GATR site will cost about $750,000 according to East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo.

“The GATR site should fill in the coverage in the Montauk dock area, East Lake Drive and out to the Point, as the topography from the Montauk tower site causes gaps in signal, particularly on the portable radios,” Chief Sarlo said. “[Montauk Fire Department and [police] should see a tremendous improvement in signal coverage once it is online.”

The town also hopes to have its new system functional by fall.

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