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Two existing towers are the Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District’s top choices for adding equipment to improve communication among first responders.
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These two alternatives mean the proposal to erect an 80-foot tower at Station 5 in Hilldale Pines is now the third alternative, Fire Chief Skip Shirlaw said at the Jan. 11 fire board meeting.
Several audience members sighed in relief when they heard that news. They are neighbors of Station 5 who spent nearly six hours at Jefferson County Planning Commission meetings last year explaining that the tower would be detrimental to their lives in many ways.
However, the fire board still needs to vote on where the communication equipment will be placed. Board members asked for details on the locations and costs at their Feb. 8 meeting, so they can make a decision.
Inter-Canyon went to the Planning Commission, hoping for approval to erect the tower in Hilldale Pines, but the commission voted 5-2 not to allow it. So, the fire department went back to the drawing board.
The first and second alternatives will cost more than the Hilldale Pines alternative, Shirlaw said, but it will be worth it to address community concerns. He said engineers need to visit the existing towers — one on Doubleheader Mountain — to assess whether they will provide the needed coverage before the department negotiates on a fee to lease space.
Better first-responder communication
Inter-Canyon wants to add another communication tower to provide better coverage for the east end of the district. It must have a direct line of sight to the tower at Mount Lindo. The Inter-Canyon communication towers are interconnected with other fire departments’ towers in the foothills to allow first responders to communicate during emergencies.
Inter-Canyon has been working to upgrade its communications system since 2018, and failures in the system during emergencies in 2019 added to the fire department’s need to make changes, Shirlaw said. Inter-Canyon hired an engineering firm in 2020 to study the system and to make recommendations to improve communications.
Hilldale Pines residents’ concerns
Residents said while they understand first responders’ need to communicate with each other, and they respect Inter-Canyon for the work it does, they don’t want to bear the brunt of the negative impacts. About 70 people signed a petition opposing the proposed tower at Station 5.
Residents have retained an attorney to take action if the Inter-Canyon fire board decides to construct the tower at Station 5, according to neighbor Linda Marrs.
Their concerns, expressed at public hearings before the Jeffco Planning Commission, include:
They were unhappy that the tower could be used to generate revenue for the fire department if Inter-Canyon leased some of the space to commercial entities, noting that commercial use is not compatible with the residential zoning in Hilldale Pines.
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