Town Purchases Shelter at Communications Tower Site
WETHERSFIELD - Wethersfield will be purchasing a former Nextel Communications Shelter that will serve as the site for a third tower needed for the town’s new emergency response communications system.

       The Town Council voted unanimously to accept motions to buy the shelter for $1, which will require it to negotiate a lease with SBA Site Management, LLC, the owner of 100 Executive Square, where the communications shelter is located.

       “You really need to approve both of these things,” said Attorney Morris Borea during his presentation of the proposed purchase and lease. “Otherwise you’re going to own something that you have no right to be on.”

       Concern regarding the proposal was mainly due to the fact that the agreement will not guarantee structural integrity suitable for the site’s purpose, and even Borea admitted that this presented a risk.

       “We don’t know that once we buy the building, it will be suitable,” he said. “The licensing agreement is you’ll get what you get, and we don’t know if it’ll be suitable.”

       An engineering report from 1999, when the communications “shed” was first installed at the property, said that the roof of the building can bear the weight of the equipment, but the results are probably outdated, Borea said.

       “My only worry is that that opinion is 15 years old,” he said.

       A dollar sounds like a low price for just about anything, but Nextel will actually be saving money to get rid of the building, according to Borea.

       “When they no longer use that shelter, they’re required to take the equipment off the roof,” Borea said. “Due to the size and scope of the shelter, that’s an expensive proposition.”

       Licensing fees under an agreement with SBA Site Management, LLC for use of the property will cost the town $1,000 a month-a rate that will increased by 3 percent every year. The deal will renew automatically every five years.

       “That’s less than what everybody else is paying,” Borea said. “It’s competitive, and we get that because we’re a government entity.”

       But he anticipated additional costs.

       “Once we own the shed, everything that happens is our responsibility,” Borea said. “There’s other equipment up there and if our equipment causes interference with other signals, it becomes our responsibility to remediate that.”

       Or, in this case, the responsibility of Harris Communications, the vendor providing the town with a new $3.6 million radio communications system for emergency responders. Under Wethersfield’s contract with Harris, the company would have picked up the tab for fixing any signal interference issues with other equipment, according to Town Manager Jeff Bridges.

       The Council approved the contract with Harris last year to replace a Motorola emergency radio system that has been described by both town officials and police department personnel as problematic. Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran has reported losing radio communication with officers-sometimes during dangerous situations-in parts of town, and a lot of the faulty equipment that came with the system could not be replaced because it has become obsolete and gone out of production.