Source: Sherman Publications

Church nixes 9-1-1 tower, county seeks site

by David Fleet

July 13, 2011

Close, but no tower.

By a 33-27 secret ballot on Sunday, the voting members of the Christ Lutheran Church rejected a proposal by the Lapeer County 9-1-1 to construct a tower on a section of church cemetery.

The decision comes after the Hadley Township Planning Commission approved an application by a 6-0 vote on July 5 giving Lapeer County Emergency Management Services permission to construct a 250-foot self-supported 9-1-1 tower, concrete shelter, 60-by-60 foot fenced compound and access road on the northwest corner of Fox Lake and Hadley roads. The tower was to be constructed on a portion of the Christ Lutheran Church Cemetery property.

The proposal stirred church members and area residents.

“I’m thankful they decided to keep our county cemetery for its purpose,“ said Mary Alice Seelbinder, a 63-year member of the church who had been vocal regarding the tower.

“Our church will move on as we have for 153 years.”

Lapeer County Central Dispatch Director Vic Martin made the tower proposal and said the cemetery site was selected due to the elevation— about 1,130 feet, the highest in the county. The southern areas of Lapeer County have had some coverage issues with regards to 9-1-1.

Martin said that communication problems have plagued Hadley, Metamora and Almont. To rectify this problem, four towers are planned for the southern section of the county, including the Brocker Road area. Of concern is the use of mutual aid with other communities—the new towers will be a major plus for several areas of Lapeer County, he said.

Funding for the project, which should begin later this summer, will come from a .75 millage approved by Lapeer County voters in August 2009.

Martin added that state land, which surrounds much of the cemetery site, had been considered; however, engineers from Motorola determined the cemetery site to be ideal. Martin added that a lease agreement with Christ Lutheran Church had been under consideration. He would not comment on the financial details that may be pending, although he did say that cell phone and internet could tag on to the tower.“We have to pursue a location for another tower,” said Martin.

“We have no other alternatives right now—we have spoken with a state congressman checking into the state land issue, but it’s not a state tower. That makes it very difficult. This will set us back. It will delay the system—we are unsure how long this make take.”

On Monday, engineers from Motorola were contacted to begin yet another study of the area to determine a location.

“The cemetery was a perfect location. It had the right height and was in line for microwave dishes. I understand the church has concerns, but it was necessary to improve the safety for the community.”

Hadley Township Fire Chief Kurt Nass said radio communications is vital for the community’s safety.

“There’s no two ways about it—that 9-1-1 tower impacts fire, police and EMS for the Hadley Hills area. But it’s more than just fire—if a break-in occurs too often now you can’t get through on a land line. Consider the number of residents who don’t even have a land line now. Simply put—there’s no way to stay in contact in case of an emergency.”

“The radio is everything. If someone is trapped or in trouble, without a radio there’s nothing you can do.”

Nass said many factors are hurting communications in the area including weather and the age of the current antennas.

“The coverage is not what it was 10 years ago—the quality of the antennas has been compromised. They getting older. It’s all a factor. We’ve lucked out so far.”

Nass recalled a recent township fire on Hegel Road near Bittersweet Lane that took an hour longer to get to due to a lack of radio coverage.

“That fire was in the chimney and there was no damage to the house,” he said. “If the house would have been on fire or the fire was in the interior walls, it would have burned down.”