Glendora officials have registered concerns over a large-scale project to install transmission towers at thee fire stations in town under a massive communications improvement project.
The effort under the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System would have 70-foot-tall radio transmission monopoles built on Fire Stations 85, 86 and 151 in Glendora, as well as 226 other sites identified throughout Los Angeles County.
City officials are worried that the LA-RICS Public Safety Broadband Network was moving forward without first completing compliance standards under the National Environmental Policy Act and that this project is not being publicly vetted.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously March 24 to temporarily halt all new construction of the PSBN in cities objecting to the management of the project.
“We … object to that. We felt that there wasn’t enough information made available in this communication process,” said City Manager Chris Jeffers at the March 24 City Council meeting. Specifically, the city would like to know the best ways to aesthetically hide the monopoles and to address concerns about potential harm caused by the radio waves.
The city was first informed by the LA-RICS Joint Powers Powers Authority in October of 2013 that the NEPA review would begin, yet the NEPA reviews have yet to be completed.
The LA-RICS JPA also stated that all 229 sites are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, having been granted exemption by the State Legislature in 2012. The JPA has said it will still perform NEPA review requirements since the PSBN is federally funded.
In 2013, Jeff Kugel, Glendora City Planning Director, informed the JPA that city building permits were required for construction. The JPA said it was exempt from any building permits needed since it was work being done on behalf of the county.
Formed in 2009, LA-RICS would incorporate two independent, but compatible projects: the Land Mobile Radio and Long Term Evolution systems, with the former would provide day-to-day wireless voice and narrowband radio data, the latter would provide day-to-day wireless broadband data communications.
LA-RICS reportedly has been trying to move forward with the PSBN or risk losing a $154.6 million dollar grant form the Federal Government to fund the $175-million project.
In order to move forward, the JPA split the project in two, starting with the LTE system to reportedly bypass NEPA reviews, Jeffers said.
Described as “the most comprehensive undertaking of its kind in the nation,” LA-RICS was formed with the goal of improving radio and broadband communications infrastructure for first responders during man-made or natural disasters in Los Angeles County, requiring cooperative planning and coordination of government services to implement the network.
According to the LA-RICS website, there are more than 80 public safety agencies operating in the Los Angeles region on 40 different radio systems in a combination of differing spectrums, in analog and digital modes with conventional and trunked systems.
In response to recent developments, the city has retained special legal counsel with Chatten-Brown & Carstens, LLP who are knowledgeable with NEPA review standards, Jeffers said. The special counsel has written a letter to the LA-RICS JPA expressing the city’s objections.
LA-RICS published an Emissions Presentation to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors March 24, stating the lack of danger with exposure to radio frequencies. The limit set by the Federal Communications Commission for RF exposure is 505 uW/cm2, assuming continuous, year-round exposure. The LA-RICS system would reportedly have an exposure rate from .1 to 1.5 percent of the Maximum Exposure Limit.
Some Los Angeles County FIre Fighters are not convinced.
The Los Angeles County Fire Union, including LA County Fire Fighters Local 1014, has been active in expressing its concerns to the project, sending mailers to residents about the PSBN.
“The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors did the right thing by voting unanimously to halt construction of cell towers at any County fire station where either the residents or the employees who live and work at that station have expressed health and safety concerns,” said LA County Fire Department Captain Dave Gillotte in an online statement.
Looking ahead, an extension from the federal government will be sought to maintain the multimillion dollar grant.
The County Board of Supervisors has directed the LA-RICS JPA to begin a public outreach campaign to communicate with stakeholders countywide whom have expressed concern.
“We are supportive of an interoperable system. We just don’t think at this point that the process has been publicly vetted … enough for us to have a reasonable opinion at this point to work through all the issues,” Jeffers said.