Mixed signals on tower construction - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Mixed signals on tower construction

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Emergency communication is important for first responders.  Right now, the FCC is calling for an upgrade to emergency communications. 

However, in Eau Claire County, a proposed tower construction site impedes on FAA airspace.  Now the county is handling the two opposing federal mandates.

"It's really the airport commission's obligation to make sure that the airspace around the airport is protected and kept clear of obstructions," says Chippewa Valley Regional Airport Manager Charity Speich.

But what happens when one of those obstructions has to do with emergency radio towers?

"As a portion of that it requires an infrastructure upgrade across our community.  Along with community partners to make sure that we meet the mandate placed on us by the FCC," says Eau Claire Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hurley.

So the federal government is pulling Eau Claire County departments in different directions leaving local officials to decide the outcome.

"We work with the airport on a multitude of issues.  Communications is obviously one of them, response is one of them.  So we work together and try to reach a common ground across our community," says Hurley.

The issue is 10 feet of airspace, which antennas atop a new radio tower on Pinehurst Hill would breach.

"It's particularly important for all things to not be in the approaches to runways.  When we have tall things in the approaches to runways it can affect instrument approaches to those runways," says Speich.

So for a lower quality radio signal the county can compromise and mount the antennas lower on the tower.

"It's not that we're one side and they're another.  Then we work together and find a solution that meets both of our needs both currently and in the future," says Hurley.

The county will build a 60 foot tower next to the Pinehurst water tower this summer. 

Whether the radio antennas will be mounted atop the tower, or somewhere lower, will be decided by the county board of land use appeals.

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