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.