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Fire Island likely getting new cell tower

The headquarters for Verizon Communications Inc. in Manhattan.

The headquarters for Verizon Communications Inc. in Manhattan. Credit: AP, 2005

The Islip Town board will vote at Tuesday's board meeting to enter into a contract with Verizon Wireless to lease land on Captree Island for a cell tower.

According to the town board resolution, the cell tower would enhance wireless phone service on Fire Island, where landline service has been severely limited since superstorm Sandy and the burden has shifted to the wireless network.

Town attorney Robert Cicale said that if the pact is approved, Verizon Wireless would have a five-year lease with seven five-year options to extend, and the cell carrier would pay rent to the town, though he did not know the amount because the contract with Verizon Wireless has not been finalized, he said. The carrier would also pay the town a percentage of the income derived from having subtenants on the tower, Cicale said.

In a statement, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said the new cell tower has "no connection" to Verizon's implementation of Voice Link, a wireless alternative to landline home phone service that has been rolled out on western Fire Island after the carrier's underground copper wire infrastructure was flooded in Sandy.

"This is just part of our original plan to improve our network coverage along the Robert Moses Causeway [and] Ocean Parkway," Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Esmeralda Diaz Cameron said in an email.

Cicale called the agreement a "unique circumstance" because of Fire Island's geography and phone service issues post-Sandy.

"This has more of a particular nature to it, to serve an area that does not have access to landline service that the rest of the island would enjoy," he said.

Dominic Bertucci, chief of the Kismet Fire Department, said he and other first responders welcomed the news, especially as the population explodes on Fire Island during the warm summer months and wireless service diminishes as a result.

"It's a great thing for emergency services," Bertucci said. "The cellphone service on Fire Island progressively gets worse every year as more and more people are bringing smartphones out there. There are some days where you can barely get a signal."

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