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Officials will consider Skylands area for alternative site for communications facility

COURTESY PHOTO: GOOGLE - The C800 group will now look to place an emergency communications tower at a location near Bergis Road and Upper Cherry Lane in the Skylands area. A wrench was thrown into the Clackamas 800 Radio Group's plans to build a public emergency communications facility at Cooks Butte Park after the three Emery sons, whose parents sold Cooks Butte Park to the City in 1975, withdrew their consent for the tower.

"I have significant concerns about officers and public safety not having that site," said John Hartsock, manager of C800 — a conglomerate of 18 different public safety agencies like police and fire departments in Clackamas County. "It's pretty key to coverage."

Hartsock said the City Council requested that staff inform C800 to excuse the City from the Cooks Butte lease during its Nov. 5 City Council meeting. Hartsock plans to bring this before the C800 Board Nov. 20 and will discuss next steps — which will include the discussion of a previously considered site in the Skylands/Uplands area.

The proposed facility, which prompted outrage from Save Cooks Butte proponents in September, would consist of a 180-foot tower with 16.5 additional feet for antennas and the associated ground equipment like a propane tank, generator and shelter enclosed in a 50-foot by 50-foot fenced compound.

Community members did not want the tower erected at Cooks Butte because they wanted the park to be preserved in its natural state.

The purpose of the tower is to improve communications for police, fire and life safety personnel — and according to what Hartsock said during a September neighborhood meeting, Cooks Butte is the best location in the city because it provides good indoor and outdoor coverage in an area that currently has spotty coverage or dead zones when public safety personnel try to communicate via their radio system.

Now C800 will have to find another location — and the group doesn't expect to do this without pushback.

Hartsock said he will suggest that C800 consider the Skylands site on the south side of Bergis Road where Upper Cherry Lane ends.

Two years ago, C800 signed a lease with a private party — the property is not City-owned — to build the tower at this site and was ready to begin the land use process, but upon hearing about the Cooks Butte location the group steered away from Skylands.

C800 still has a signed lease for the Skylands site.

"The Skyland site enhances coverage in the area, along Hwy 43 and into southern Milwaukie. Secondly it provides marginal coverage to the southern portion (of) Lake Oswego due to its height and proximity to Lake Oswego," Hartsock said in an email to the Review. "It is not a substitute for Cooks Butte. We will still need a site in northern Lake Oswego to obtain an acceptable level of coverage for the City."

Hartsock said after attending a neighborhood meeting for the Skylands site, people were unhappy with that location as well. He said people living in four or five high-value homes near the proposed site would have their views obstructed by the tower.

"We are going to put this tower in the center of their view with little or no potential screening because there aren't any trees there. That's the part that I guess is sad," Hartsock said. "There's no one, for the most part, that looks directly out of their window and (sees) the one at Cooks Butte. It was fairly densely screened — (though) not 100%.

"Those folks are going to be unhappy."

There is no telling what the outcome will be if the Skylands site emerges again, but Hartsock thinks the land use application — if approved by Clackamas County — would undoubtedly be appealed.

"It would be a long battle and it's unfortunate," Hartsock said.

"Our number one tool that our officers and fire personnel use is our radios," said Lake Oswego Police Chief Dale Jorgensen. "We rely on them every day, not only for the safety of the community but also for the officer/firefighter using them. Having a reliable and dependable radio system is important for every community member and Public Safety personnel. We will work with our radio partner to fnd another tower site that will fill this critical need."

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