By Janee Law
Huntington Bay Village trustees are planning to address the issue of poor cell service at village beaches by installing emergency phones that can be used to reach local dispatchers.
The move was, in part, spurred by an incident last month at the Town of Huntington’s Crescent Beach, where a man suffered a heart attack and bystanders called 911, but were connected to a dispatcher in Stamford, Connecticut, according to Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow.
The village doesn’t own that beach, the town does, but the incident got Huntington Bay officials thinking about the issue and ways to address it.
"The beaches are obviously vulnerable spots because they’re real points of activity for residents during the summer, even through the fall. And, if there is an emergency, it’s problematic,” he said.
Morrow said that, in the past, there have been talks between the village and companies looking to build cell towers, but the talks never culminated.
“We’ve just never been able to find a place that we felt was appropriate for a cell tower,” he said.
Instead, trustees recently adopted a resolution, that will allow emergency phone boxes to be installed at village beaches, including Wincoma, Bay Crest and Nathan Hale. The phones, which will dial out to a local emergency dispatcher, will be installed and maintained by the village. Morrow said the village is hoping to have them installed by the end of November.
“If it’s a medical emergency or if it’s a fire they’ll also deploy the Halesite Fire Department,” he said.
The installation, starting with six boxes, will cost the village around $8,000, Morrow said. Monthly service charges will be around $300.
“We think that’s a good first step at least to add protection to the beaches,” Morrow said, adding that they’re hoping to have the phones installed by the end of November. “What we don’t want to see happen is that we keep talking about this and then something happens on one of the beaches. The board is saying, maybe we don’t have all the solutions but let’s do some stuff to try to fix this.”
To further address cell service throughout village, the board is in talks with Crown Castle International Corp., a mobile operator company that deploys telecommunications equipment.
“What they are proposing to the village is that they will install approximately 27 mini cells mounted to existing telephone poles,” Morrow said. “By implementing a network of those in the village, that will improve service not just in the beach areas but also to people’s homes.”
Although there isn’t a contract yet, Morrow said they are working on a preliminary map and design. Morrow added that he’s hoping the solution with Crown Castle is put into play by late spring of next year.
“Everybody knows there’s no service up in the North Shore and this really needs to be addressed,” Morrow said. “It needs to be addressed not from a point of view of convenience but it really needs to be addressed from a point of view of safety.”