By Paul Perillie

When the Wisconisan Glacier finally receded to Connecticut approximately 18,000 years ago, in its wake it created the quaint, hilly coastline that today is the defining physical feature of Long Island’s north shore.

But for anyone trying to get cell phone service in the midst of those rolling, beachfront hills in the hamlet of Centerport, the glacier has created a serious safety hazard. That’s because cellular band radio waves do not effectively penetrate earth. It also explains why, at today’s meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, lawmakers unanimously voted to approve a plan by Majority Leader Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) to place a cell phone tower in the heart of Centerport, at Suffolk County’s Vanderbilt Museum.

The cell tower at the museum would not be publicly funded but instead would be erected by a private vendor, Verizon. Once erected, it is estimated that the tower could accommodate five additional cellular vendors. In return, the Vanderbilt Museum would receive monthly revenue, estimated between $1,000 and $2,500 from each provider that the tower accommodates. The resulting annual revenue of $60,000 to $150,000 would help the museum offset its operating costs.

In addition, the cell tower would provide further protections to Centerport’s more than 5,000 residents. It would also greatly assist the 90-member volunteer fire department, which safeguards approximately 3,000 residential and commercial properties.

But the safety benefits are not limited to people losing cell phone service while talking and driving (hands-free only please!) through the hamlet’s winding roads. Boaters and other watersport enthusiasts will also benefit from the cell tower at the Vandy. Due to Long Island’s lack of cell towers in proximity to the Sound, in recent years several emergency cellular calls from Suffolk boaters in distress ended up having their pleas for help bounced all the way across the water to Connecticut’s 9-1-1 call centers. Precious time was lost as these operators had to reroute those distress calls back to the appropriate responders on Long Island.

The cell tower at the Vanderbilt will be one more safety point that residents can rely on, regardless of whether they are in their car, in their home or on the water.

"This cell tower will help the Vanderbilt Museum protect the proud heritage of our past while also ensuring the future safety of our residents,” says Cooper.

While the Vanderbilt Board of Trustees will negotiate the lease terms for the cell tower and its tenants, Cooper will hold a public hearing in Centerport to get community feedback on its placement. The County Legislature then must approve the final terms of the project before it is allowed to go forward.

Paul Perillie is an aide to the Majority Caucus in the Suffolk Legislature.

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