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Fire Chief Vows To Fight To Keep Tower From Being Rebuilt Near Fire Station
By Steve Yablonski/Oswego Bureau Chief


17388.jpg (7981 bytes)

By Steve Yablonski

There was a lot of rust near the base of the tower, the fire chief said, adding that ten of these bolts could be turned by hand.

Oswego's fire chief says he doesn't care if they rebuild the cellular tower toppled by last week's windstorm.

He just doesn't want the county to put it back up outside his fire station.

A few years ago, the city sold the plot of land where the tower stood to the county.

Emergency calls were being routed through the E-911 office and the former fire control radio tower was replaced with the cell tower.

The county then leased it to some telephone companies and makes upwards of about $10,000 a month from it, Chief Ed Geers said at Monday's meeting of the Physical Services Committee.

"The city got snookered by this deal," he said. "The city lost out on an awful lot of money."

On Nov. 3, a school tour came into the eastside fire station, at about 11 a.m., and parked behind the station - in the spot where the chief's vehicle would be crushed by the tower 10 days later at 11:07 a.m.

If the tower had come down on the 3rd instead of the 13th, "we'd have some dead children," he said solemnly.

"The tower could have fallen on the administrative wing of the fire department; my funeral probably would have been today," he continued. "God only knows how many other people would have gotten hurt or killed."

If it had fallen 15 degrees t the southeast, it would have fallen on the living quarters of the department, he added.

People go up and down the ramp outside the fire house several times each day, people on scooters, skateboards and just walking, he said, adding, "This could have killed a lot of people, innocent people."

If the tower had been inspected properly and constructed properly, the accident might not have happened, he said.

According to Geers, of the 18 bolts holding the tower on the base, 10 of them could be turned by hand.

The weld was small for a 165 foot structure that weighed 50,000 pounds over all, he added. Large areas of rust were also visible in the base, Geers said.

There wasn't much left to hold the tower up, and once it got rocking in the wind storm it toppled, the chief said. "It took three seconds to hit the ground, going about 140 mph," he added.

"I guess we should count our blessings that no one got hurt or killed on Nov. 13, 2003. And, I hope this tower isn't allowed to be put back up on that site," Geers said. "I haven't slept a whole night since last Wednesday."

He said he wakes up from nightmares where his children were crushed in a vehicle or where the tower fell on the administrative wing of the fire department.

Everyone who works in the eastside station is against having the tower rebuilt in its former site, he stressed. "I'm not going to say I'm not glad it's gone. I am glad it's gone and I hope they don't rebuild it on that site," he said.

According to a spokesman for the company that owned the tower, it was constructed to withstand 70 mph wind speeds and a half an inch of ice, the chief said.

There have been 70 mph winds at least five times this year and in early April an inch and a quarter of ice on the tower, he added.

Huge sheets of ice fell off the tower and destroyed three vehicles during the April ice storm.

"I'm pleading with this council, the mayor's office (city engineer) Tony Leotta, whoever has the power to see to it that this tower doesn't go back up on this site," he said. "Please, don't let that tower be rebuilt there."

The council could pass a resolution discouraging the county from rebuilding at the same site, Leotta said.

There have been three incidents involving the tower, Council Bill Dunsmoor noted.

He listed the individual who climbed up the tower and jumped off a few years ago, the damaging sheets of ice in April and the Nov. 13 collapse.

"I think we should direct the city attorney to put the county on notice that we don't want that tower back there," he said.

"The county is exempt from the zoning ordinances," Leotta pointed out. "What we ought to consider is condemning the site, and take it over as part of the fire station property."

City Attorney Ed Izyk agreed that was a possibility.

"I'll fight tooth and nail to keep the tower from being rebuilt there. It doesn't belong there," the chief said. "It should be in a safe fall zone where it can fall clear of any structure and not put people in harm's way."

Councilor Dave Hall, committee chair, said the matter would be taken up by the full council and urged Izyk to begin his preliminary work right away.


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