Menlo Park to install 120-foot-tall police antenna/transmitter


Tree growth may be great for the arcadian feel of Menlo Park's Civic Center, but it has had one negative effect.

The Menlo Park Police Department's 60-foot tall radio antenna for receiving and transmitting emergency signals hasn't worked well for years, according to Police Commander Dave Bertini, and he blames the growing trees around it for interfering with the signals.

Now the city plans to build a new police antenna in the Civic Center that's double the height.

The City Council on Dec. 6 approved a $133,086 contract with Sabre Communications Corp., part of a total budget of $191,703 for the installation of a 120-foot-tall antenna/transmitter pole near the police department's dispatch center in the Civic Center.

The project is expected to start in late January or early February and last three to four months, according to Justin Murphy, the public works director.

Menlo Park's police and public works departments rely primarily on another antenna/transmitter located at the Menlo Park Fire Protection District station at 300 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park; the antenna/transmitter in the Civic Center is a backup.

The fire district has plans to renovate its training center at the station, requiring the removal of its antenna/transmitter, according to a staff report.

Even without the trees interfering with the signal, the height of the current antenna/transmitter at the Civic Center limits the signal strength near Belle Haven, and the signal cuts dead around East Palo Alto, Cmdr. Bertini said.

The new antenna/transmitter will allow radio signals to reach Atherton and East Palo Alto, he said.

It will also create an opportunity for the city to join a countywide "microwave" radio program, which would allow Menlo Park to contact other cities even if all phone lines went down during an emergency. Having that technology would be an important "redundancy" for the city's disaster preparedness efforts, he said.

Nearby cities and the county could contract with Menlo Park to use the antenna, for a fee, but there are no plans yet to do so, Cmdr. Bertini said.

At one point, the possibility of leasing the antenna to private cell service providers was considered, but the space near the ground was determined to be insufficient for such use.

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5 people like this
Posted by Jim Lewis
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 15, 2016 at 12:29 pm

I commend the city in approving this new communications antenna, serving both the police and public works department. Frankly, it is a sign of the times, as similar antennas have also been installed in neighboring cities. The most recent example of that may be the new 100' antenna installed at Fire Station #2 on University Avenue in East Palo Alto.

5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 15, 2016 at 2:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is a great precedent for when the Fire District needs to replace its antenna at Station 1.

Thank you Menlo Park.

2 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2016 at 7:28 pm

I'm all in for improving public safety radio communications, but the reasoning doesn't make a lot a sense. Menlo Park Police are currently using 488.3375 MHz as their primary radio channel along with similar frequencies for county wide and tactical communications provided by San Mateo County.

According to the FCC, all public safety agencies need to vacate these frequencies (see: Web Link) in the next few years. This radio spectrum will be auctioned to the highest bidder. Palo Alto and Mountain View, for example, are leaving their radio channels for the Silicon Valley Regional Communications Systems which utilizes 700 MHz on the new simulcast county wide trunked radio system.

San Mateo County already has a simulcast 700 MHz digital radio system that provides coverage in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. The feds aren't providing funding for standalone radio systems after 9/11, and San Mateo County's radio system has plenty of capacity.

Why build infrastructure that's going to duplicate what San Mateo County has already built and paid for?

Like this comment
Posted by Needed
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Except the county radio was full of dead spots and is a Motorola trunked system. Redwood City went back to their old system. Bill you have posted so tell the whole story Tell me if I'm wrong? And the fed standards are a mess. No matter what a tower was needed and reception is poor

4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 16, 2016 at 11:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If the taxpayers really want to save money they could push for County wide consolidation of police, fire, ambulance and all other emergency services with ONE dispatch center and one consolidated communications system.

1 person likes this
Posted by Roberto
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 16, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Roberto is a registered user.

@Peter C - agree. Have for years. The issue has been and is the different cities want a different touch. Although SM SO has done a good job, if they model after the East Bay this would resolve it. Look at Orinda, Lafayette and many others. The "win" in this is not that they are served by the Sheriff's office, it is they have their own cars, own uniforms, own web site, etc., yet they save money by operating under the SO. when detectives are needed, that is Cost based and from the SO. It also allows the officers / Deputies to serve in various place and learn various disciplines.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 16, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Roberto - Can you give us more info on the Orinda et al arrangement and what services are inluded etc.


Like this comment
Posted by Roberto
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 19, 2016 at 9:12 am

Roberto is a registered user.

@ Peter, sure - their web pages sum it up and they have been very successful and well recived. I believe the tour of duty is 4 years before the officer goes back to a different division in the SO. Here are the cities: Lafayette, Oakley, Danville, Orinda, San Ramon. The key is each city looks and acts like a city (cars, uniforms, etc.) Although SMCO does for several cities, it is still Sheriff Office. This was/is a way to keep the city unique and small town flavor.
Orinda as an example:
Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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