Neighborhood meeting held to discuss and learn about the proposed 265-foot structure

A meeting to discuss construction of a proposed emergency communications tower, part of the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA) communications system, was held Feb. 26 for residents who live near the proposed structure.

The meeting was called to provide a forum to review and identify issues before a development application is submitted to the city of Newberg. The tower will expand the range of the system, which will help agencies responding to emergencies, and will sit on city property at the public works yard on Third Street.

About 15 people -- primarily citizens, city employees, a representative of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and one from the Newberg-Dundee Police Department -- attended the meeting with four WCCCA employees. The biggest concern appeared to concern the height of the tower, according to WCCCA Permitting Agent Skip Greene. The nearest property owner is about 360 feet from the proposed tower.

The tower base will reach 250 feet, with an antennae and lightning rod extending its height to 266.5 feet. The proposal is to paint the tower in a gray color to blend with its surroundings, although WCCCA is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration because the structure is near Sportsman's Airpark.

"It is very possible that the FAA may require us to paint the tower orange and white, like you see in other places," Greene said. "The problem is, you can't stealth these towers. It's pretty hard to have a 250-foot tree."

Greene added that the tower is designed to withstand earthquakes and hurricane-force winds, with an emergency generator on hand to allow emergency communications to continue for the agencies that will use it, including police, fire and other personnel.

"If the phone lines go out, it could be for days," he said.

The tower will sport three microwave antennas pointed toward Parrett Mountain and Chehalem Mountain and serve as a relay to improve communications for responders and prevent dead zones within the city and the region. The signal will reach east to Parrett Mountain and west of Dundee, according to an area coverage map supplied by WCCCA.

Police and fire representatives explained at the meeting the issues they have with the portable radios they currently use, saying there are times when they are unable to communicate with dispatch while inside some city buildings. They stressed that radio communications must be available at all times for the public's safety as well as well as their own, Greene said, adding "The important goal is to be able to receive signals from inside of the buildings. This way the responders will not have to run into the street to get a signal."

The facility needs to be secure and so the public works yard was a logical choice as it is fenced.

"We want this to be a secure facility," Greene said. "Chehalem Creek is to the south and it is 30 to 40 feet below the installation."

He added that most of the time the installation, which includes a concrete structure housing radio equipment and air conditioners, will generally be quiet, except when the emergency generator fires up.

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