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Plans for the 250-foot tower near the Public Safety Building recommended by the planning commission

The city of Newberg is moving forward with its plans to erect a 250-foot emergency communications tower adjacent to the Public Safety Building on Third and South Howard streets.

The tower, according to an application that came before the planning commission, would be solely for emergency use only as no cell providers could add antennas to the tower once built. The tower meets the criteria of the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA), through which Newberg uses its public dispatch operations.

The city moved forward with a contract with WCCCA last November after upgrades required by the Washington County agency essentially rendered the Newberg dispatch center unable to communicate with the WCCCA and other regional dispatch agencies.

The emergency communications system upgrade is Newberg's portion of a larger project with WCCCA and C800, Motorola's 800 megahertz digital radio system contract, to move from an analog to a digital public safety radio system. Newberg-Dundee Police, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, the Dundee Fire Department and the Newberg dispatch center utilize WCCCA's 800-MHz radio system for emergency radio communications.

The tower, the land for which is now used as a storage yard, is the tallest it could be to meet WCCCA criteria. It has been reviewed by several government agencies and no other nearby towers meet the minimum height requirements this tower would fulfil.

Newberg formerly used a much less powerful radio system. To remain viable when WCCCA upgraded, Newberg had to replace about 50 analog radios and bring the police dispatch center up to date technologically, allowing it to remain in contact with WCCCA and agencies beyond.

The P25 radio system allows officers, firefighters and the dispatch center to exchange and make use of information within Washington, Clackamas and areas of Yamhill counties.

The cost to the city was $3.15 million. Last fall, the City Council approved a contract with Motorola for $2.01 million. The city has the responsibility for the overall financial management and funding of its portion of the project.

Part of the reason for the need for the tower is to accommodate the use of hands-free devices for emergency responders; the tower's range is about 12 miles. It is one of nine towers being added to the area around Washington County, as well as an additional 13 towers in Clackamas County.

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