Montgomery County has spent $36 million over the past few years to build an effective emergency communications network that was designed for 30 towers. So far 29 towers have been built to serve the county’s needs but there’s a hole in the system covering posh Upper Merion. Construction of a 180-foot tower would significantly improve the ability of county dispatchers to communicate with emergency personnel like firefighters and police, county officials told NBC10.com in Philadelphia.
“More towers are needed to increase coverage and increased capacity is needed because the system gets bogged by the volume of use during major events,” according to a county report on the project. Without the thirtieth tower, parts of Upper Merion, Bridgeport, West Conshohocken and Lower Merion could have spotty coverage within the emergency dispatch system, County Solicitor Josh Stein said.
The pushback from Upper Merion came in the form of complaints from eight families living in the immediate vicinity of the site. The county has also claimed Upper Merion has changed their zoning laws to prevent the build out. Upper Merion township Manager David Kraynik disagrees. “All we’re asking is go before the zoning board,” Kraynik said. “Any property has to go before the zoning board for a variance. That’s our position and that’s consistently been our position with the county,” he told told NBC10.com.
The county solicitor’s office will send a letter to Upper Merion supervisors requesting that they reconsider the merits of the tower and sign off on its construction.
“They’re having a negative impact on their surrounding communities,” a County Commissioner said of Upper Merion.