Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 9, 2013

OUR VIEW: Tower mistake not ours to pay

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — County lawmakers were caught off-guard last month when they recently learned that an upgrade to the county’s emergency communications project could cost an extra $330,000. Now they’re asking why the county should have to pay the difference. So are we.

The seven-tower project involves building three new towers — in North Tonawanda, at the Upper Mountain fire hall and the Terry’s Corners fire hall. All three new builds were expected to stand 180 feet tall. Not anymore.

Apparently someone didn’t take line of sight into enough consideration. This blunder means that the Terry’s Corners tower will have to be raised 20 feet. That’s not too bad. But, the Upper Mountain tower must be raised by 50 feet and the North Tonawanda site by 120 feet, bringing that structure to a towering 300 feet tall! How that was miscalculated has us baffled.

Motorola Solutions — a well-known communications company — is the company that submitted the $10 million winning bid. L.R. Kimball & Associates is the project manager that prepared bid specifications and scrutinized bids. The explanation from Kimball & Associates for the added growth is unsettling.

The “experts” who designed the system didn’t account for a few objects that would block the signal between towers. Things such as a tree near the Terry’s Corners hall, a Covanta smokestack between the N.T. site and an existing tower at Niagara Falls Medical Center and — our favorite — power lines associated with the Niagara Power Project near the Upper Mountain site.

We can give the experts a slight pass on the smokestack because the location of the North Tonawanda site changed several times. Still, they should have taken a final look. We can’t forgive them for failing to take the power lines into proper consideration. And a tree? Really?

It doesn’t take an engineer to realize that a cell phone call can be disrupted by a hill or a building blocking line-of-sight. One would think that the experts at well-established companies such as Kimball & Associates and Motorola would have caught something so basic.

This is not Niagara County’s mistake, and its taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it. We’re hoping that County Manager Jeff Glatz was serious when he suggested that the county’s not going to cover that portion of the bill. Let the “experts” eat the difference and give taxpayers a break.