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JUNE 2 - JUNE 10, 2015

Surprise Surprise; Motorola Builds a Tower on the Weekend
Violating Town Law but with a Secret Plan to Ramrod it through anyway

By Frank Parlato

JUNE 2, 2015

The tower, if it fell, could fall like this. But generally speaking towers rarely fall.

On Friday the view was like this
Say What? On Sunday it looks like this.
The Upper Mountain radio tower

Last week the Reporter delved into the clever way Niagara County, Motorola Solutions Inc., and L.R. Kimball consultants used the SEQRA law to get past potentially pesky property owners who might object to having a 200 foot radio tower in their backyards - if they found out about it before it was built.

The beauty part about towers is they can be built in a day or so.

Indeed before anyone can stop you.

The $10 million Motorola contract with Niagara County called for seven radio tower sites and the famous radio company was not about to brook any delay.

Four of the tower leases were to go to volunteer fire companies.

One went to a wealthy developer and the other two sites were on the top of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and in the City of Lockport at the composting plant.

As we explained last week, that clever group of Kimball, Motorola and the useful and helpful County of Niagara decided to skip the normal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) where they would have to disclose the whereabouts of the seven tower sites and instead chose to do a "Generic" Environmental Impact Statement where they didn’t have to mention where the radio towers were to be built.

Although they knew they could act as if they hadn’t a clue.

The county was the “lead agency”.

The plan was to not to disturb the neighbors, by not bothering them with the unhappy detail that a tower was coming in their backyard.

200 feet tall.

Motorola was well practiced at this: And had good advice.
Say this was the only tower site you could find and the entire safety of the county depends on this one tower.

Don't tell them that we chose tower sites to please our best customers - the firemen - and that there were lots of other sites.

Say New York law provides the County is “immune from local land use laws when the interests of the public outweigh the interests to be served by zoning and land use laws."

And it worked.

"SEQRA and its implementing regulations are drafted in a manner which encourages public participation in the environmental review process."

Kimball's Final Generic EIS report claimed.

But really just the opposite had happened.

By not revealing where the tower sites were to be built, no one of the public has any concerns and no one therefore cared to participate in the review process.

A far different result would have occurred if they had told the public - a radio tower will be built at this specific location(s).

Indeed you and I would have appeared if it so happened that a radio tower would cast its shadows on your home and land.

If it falls it will land on your house.

People would participate then.

But since it was "Generic" nobody knew where the towers would be and hence nobody cared and that - like it or not - that is the Motorola plan.

As they did in Niagara County, not a single person who was later adversely effected by the towers (being in their backyard) thought twice about it back then since "officially" the sites had not yet been determined.

No one has yet asked how a SEQRA document that said the location of the towers were not identified yet, when in actuality they were, could possibly encourage honest public participation.

But that is the dirty little secret of the Generic EIS.

 Whenever you see it, generally speaking, you have a rascal before you presenting his plans.

At the public hearing, Bill Rutland of Lockport, who happens to be the Blue Collar Union President for Niagara County workers, he was the only one who commented.

Hardly anyone attended.

It was just Rutland's sense of distrust of the county - having watched them up close that made him attend and ask how in hell could you have a plan for a $10 million radio communications system dependent on radio towers and not know where the towers were planned to be.

But they looked him straight in the eye and said nothing.

And no one else got up to speak and so the county and Kimball and Motorola got past the hurdle of the public hearing.

Now on to the Final Generic EIS.

Here they would - so the record was clean - if the state ever looked at their plan - they would address Rutland's comments about not naming the tower locations.

Kimball did the writing.

Here is what they wrote: "The County acknowledges that the DGEIS does not include a list of specific tower sites. Instead the DGEIS identifies and assesses the impacts associated with the construction and operation of any tower site contemplated as part of the Project."

That's generic.

"The site selection criteria, potential impacts and mitigation measures that are identified in the DGEIS will be applicable to any Project communications tower site, regardless of its location within the County."

In short wherever they put the towers, it would all be the same.

Except to the homeowner, wherever they put the towers is not all the same.

In effect the county told the towns and cities and its people of whom they taxed what to expect - "the County will not be subject to the zoning requirements of the various municipalities."

At the same time these bold men never had the courage or the honesty to say officially here is where the towers will be set.

It was January 2013 when Kimball - the consultant -  advised the County Legislature to vote on a finding of "no significant environmental impact" for the project based on the generic EIS and the fact that no one - not a single person in the entire county - had risen to object.

 Now it was time at last to proceed with the plans.

In April, Kimball and Motorola realized they made a "mistake" that wound up costing them nothing, but they had to ask the county for an additional $200,000.

They hadn’t noticed, they said, power lines in Lewiston, an industrial smokestack in Niagara Falls and a big tall tree in Gasport that were blocking line of sight between radio towers in their plan.

Kimball advised the county that the new towers to be constructed at the Upper Mountain, North Tonawanda/Gratwick Hose and Terry's Corners - three fire stations - will have to be taller.

And happily the added height would only make it that much more attractive for co-locating commercial tower leases.

The North Tonawanda tower would grow by 100 feet,  and Upper Mountain by 50 feet. This would be good for the prospects of leasing tower space.

But one county legislator, David Godfrey was disturbed.

"These people drove around the whole county, drove around and drove around, and they didn't see these things?.... The Upper Mountain site, I'm having a difficult time with that. It's in the middle of the Power Project. How could anyone miss those lines?"

Adding tower height added cost to the project since thicker concrete foundations and stronger steel bases have to built.

As for the cost overruns, county officials wondered whether Kimball or Motorola should pay for their mistake, but it was soon discovered that the contract called for all mistakes made by others to be paid for by county taxpayers.

Meantime progress moved onward.

In March 2014, Godfrey and Jon Shultz, the fire safety officer for the county who was also an officer of the Upper Mountain Fire Company where one of the towers would be built, appeared on a cable TV show.

Now Motorola knew - as documents clearly reveal - and Kimball knew for they helped prepare the documents, and Shultz and County manager Jeffrey Glatz knew, that the tower on Upper Mountain they planned to build would violate the town of Lewiston law since the tower would be built less than 500 feet from the nearest home.

In fact it would be 60 feet away.

And nobody had bothered to stop over to visit the neighbors and say, "hey neighbor we are going to be building a tower - 230 feet in the air - and just about in your backyard."

But Shultz and Godfrey appeared on Lockport Community Television with talk show host Bill Angus.

Angus asked Shultz, generically, if a 300-foot tower would have a fall zone of 300 feet.

Although Shultz's Upper Mountain company would soon build a 221 foot tower that could fall on a neighbor's home less than 100 feet away Shultz did not bother to mention that and explaining that radio towers don't fall, but "break off in sections, he said "They usually go about half is what they figure to be safe."

In May, 2014, the concrete foundation for the tower was poured at the back of the Upper Mountain Fire Hall and a sign was erected, with contact information on the project. But the sign was on the property away from the neighbors line of sight.

Still nobody went to discuss things with the neighbors.
Then one weekend, - note it well please - a weekend - the 221 foot tower at Upper Mountain Fire Hall was erected.

From late afternoon Friday, July 25, to Sunday, July 27, 2014, at a time when town officials were not on duty, it went up.

According to residents it came as a surprise.

When the Town of Lewiston officials noticed the tower going up they right away issued a Stop Work Order on July 25.

But Motorola ignored the stop work order and construction continued through the weekend until the tower was erected on Sunday, July 27.
Imagine if it happened in your backyard.

On Friday - nothing.  By Sunday - there's a 221 foot tower looming over the neighborhood seemingly in the backyards of several families.
Let us be blunt and honest.

Good neighbors would have told their neighbors that over the weekend they were putting up a 221 foot tower.

Good governors would have revealed it.

A good county consultant and a helpful radio seller would have, by the laws of general decency, would have said something.

But nobody said anything.

They just built the tower. On the weekend.

A meeting was held at the Upper Mountain Fire Hall to try to mollify neighbors.

“It was put up in one weekend, 50 feet from our backyard. That was very sneaky," said Susan Deal one of the neighbors. “We never had any information sent to us.”

 Bill Bradfield, also a neighbor who lives on Upper Mountain Road, said, “When someone wants to put a fence up you get a letter. But I came home one day, and there’s a tower in my backyard.”

Robert Nablo, another neighbor said, "Talk about notice. I've lived here for 17 years. The community church across the street wanted to put an addition on their church, we got a letter. The border patrol wanted to build their site further down the road, we got a notice for it. But a 200-foot tower, less than 180-feet from my home, was put up in four days without any notification."
At the meeting Michael Harper from L. R. Kimball tried to explain.

He said Motorola and county officials and he himself drove thousands of miles checking out sites before choosing them, but were under the gun to get the towers done or face fines from the FCC.

When pressed, Harper agreed he wouldn’t want a tower in his backyard 200 feet tall, but he said the county did due diligence and with public notices and their Generic EIS they had open public comment periods.

He failed to mention that at those public meetings the county never told the public where the tower sites were to be built.

Harper did not say he left the identification of the tower sites out of his Generic EIS.

 “There was no other way we could cover the gorge,” said legislator Godfrey, stepping into the weeds. “I know it’s an eyesore and you have issues with it, but there’s certain requirements for operability. It is about saving lives. That line of sight is very important.”

County attorney Claude Joerg also joined in. He said, "(Lewiston's) town code was reviewed as part of the process. It is not as if your code was ignored. I submit to you that we followed the law completely in going forward with this project."

But this too was disingenuous.

Yes, the town code was not ignored.

It was disregarded.

The town law of Lewiston requires a tower to be 500 feet from homes.
The tower is 60 feet away.

The plan snuck through the required state environmental impact procedures by deceiving the people that the county, nor Motorola nor Kimball the consultant knew where the towers were going.

Then nobody went to the public meetings and nobody from Motorola, Kimball or the County went and spoke honestly to the neighbors.

Then get this: They built the tower on a weekend. When town officials were off duty.

Then the county town attorney dismisses them all, as if the neighbors were impediments to the safety of every man woman and child in the county.
"The town code was reviewed as part of the process," Joerg said. "It is not as if your code was ignored. I submit to you that we followed the law completely in going forward with this project."

"It never went through the process. It just went up," said Town of Lewiston Building Inspector Timothy Masters. "…. They've got miles of Power Authority property behind it that they could have put a tower in."

But that would not have been part of Motorola's plan.

Pleasing the fire companies - having the Motorola tower right on their property and paying them (with county money of course) and making the towers tall enough to let the fire companies make money from subleasing- is part of the Motorola plan.

And then sell to the fire companies every couple of years new $5,000 radios, and bill the county every year for a million or more in maintenance.

And when a few years pass, finagle the county to upgrade the whole system.
For another $10 million.

Those who study strange and awkward things oftentimes say just follow the money.

As the saga continues next week it will begin to become apparent, where the money went - and it hasn't nearly all been tracked - and only a fraction of it has been spent.

But I can safely assure you - as this unfolds - that the flow went from the taxpayers to Motorola - the puppeteers of this whole plan.





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Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
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