New radio towers are popping up in Chester County as part of a $42 million project to improve communication among first responders, but one under construction in Upper Uwchlan Township is making waves among some homeowners.
Residents say the tower will lower their property values, and many wonder why the county isn’t building it somewhere further from a residential zone.
“All we’re really saying here is, they did not do due diligence,” resident Raymond Erfle told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
But Robert Kagel, director of the Chester County Department of Emergency Services, said the county considered seven other locations before settling on the current site. The tower is one of nine being added as the county transitions from analog radios to a digital transmission system, which is expected to be more effective.
“I understand that residents are concerned about their property values going down,” Kagel said. “However when you compare that to the life of a person, of a citizen, of an emergency responder — I’m not sure how you can compare that.”
Currently 37 percent of portable radio transmissions by Chester County first responders don’t go through. Officials hope that will drop to about 3 percent with the new system.
Kagel said the problem of dropped radio calls was highlighted last year, when emergency officials and first responders gathered at a nearby elementary school for an active shooter exercise.
“They found they had no radio coverage in that school,” he said. “This tower is going to take care of that problem and problems like that, where our emergency responders don’t have the radio coverage they need to be able to take care of the people.”