Broward County Commissioners voted Tuesday to move forward with building a 911 radio tower in West Lake Park in Hollywood. It's a part of a bigger upgrade to the county's 911 radio system.
The vote was eight to one, with the County Commissioner whose district includes Hollywood, Beam Furr, opposed.
The result upset some Hollywood residents who want to see the park preserved. The city had also asked the county to place 911 antennae on top of an apartment building and hotel called The Circ instead, citing safety after storms and environmental concerns.
"From the city's perspective it's never been about aesthetics or viewshed of looking at a tower," said Andria Wingett from the City of Hollywood. "It's been about maintaining the environmental ambiance and protecting the natural environment if there is a better alternative. The city consultant continues to believe that there is a better alternative."
The tower is part of a highly-anticipated upgrade to the county's regional 911 public safety radio system, which will see a total of seven new towers added. It comes after problems with communication during the shootings at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2017 and again at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
The new tower will cover all of southeast Broward County, including Hollywood, Dania Beach and Hallandale Beach. The county is aiming to finish the entire radio system upgrade by the end of the year.
All of the speakers during the hour-long public comment period were against building the tower in the park.
"This is an issue of allowing our infrastructure to be encroaching on our environment and our public parks," said Elijah Manley, who lives in Fort Lauderdale but likes to go to West Lake Park to relax.
"We complain all the time when Tallahassee preempts us and ignores everything we're doing - but we're sitting here ignoring the residents of Hollywood," he said.
The county commissioners' vote removed protections - called covenants - for the park, which has three miles of mangrove estuary near the Intracoastal Waterway.
An engineering report done for the county shows a tower in West Lake Park will have better quality coverage during emergency situations than one at The Circ. The report states there would be signal interference for anteneae placed at The Circ, called shadowing.
"There will be very significant blackout areas," County commissioner Steve Geller told residents about The Circ. "The residents in Hollywood and Hallandale [Beach] are the ones, according to these expert studies, that will get reduced service."
The county says they are still evaluating the hotel as a backup while they move forward with putting the tower in West Lake Park.
"Public safety is always worth breaking a restrictive covenant for," County Commissioner Barbara Sharief said. "Because the lives of our residents must be placed above anything else."