Chebeague expects quicker emergency response with new tower

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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — An emergency communication tower is being constructed on the island after years of obstructed signals.

Town Administrator Eric Dyer said a 120-foot tower, base and antenna, will be built in front of the Fire and Rescue Department. He said it should be done this winter, or by spring at the latest, at a cost of more than $90,000.

“What we’re doing is getting a clearer line of sight to the mainland,” Dyer said. “When you’re higher up, you have clearer lines of communication.”

The Board of Selectman at an emergency meeting last month approved moving forward with what the town is calling the Chebeague Island EMS communications antenna project. The town has hired Martin Knapp of Marine Wiring and Electronics of East Boothbay to do the work.

The new tower will replace one that is approximately 60 feet tall. Dyer said because of its low height, signals are sent below the tree line and get slowed down.

“What we’ve had on the island hasn’t provided what we feel to be adequate coverage,” Dyer said.

The current tower is at the recreation center, which is almost a mile away from the Fire and Rescue Department. When communications are sent from the mainland to the tower, the information then must be sent to the Fire Department. The new tower will eliminate the transfer, and should increase response times.

“We’re putting the tower in a much better spot at a much better height,” Dyer said.

In September a fatal car accident occurred and Dyer said it took too long to call for an emergency helicopter.

“There was a fatality on the island and communication was a problem,” he said.

Although the person in that accident died instantly, Dyer said the slow response time would have been more problematic if it had been a life-or-death situation.

“(Fire and Rescue) have had problems with this for years and years,” Dyer said. “This would alleviate this problem.”

Constructing the new tower and base will cost the town almost $86,000, plus more than $5,000 for the new antenna. The Board of Selectmen approved up to $100,000 for the project.

“There’s a big cost,” Dyer said, “but there’s big benefit, as well.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.