GARDINER — A new communication tower that started transmitting Tuesday will improve portable radio coverage for firefighters and rescue crews when downtown, officials said.

“When you get inside the buildings or below in a basement, it’s pretty tough to get down back to dispatch,” said fire Lt. Rick Sieberg.

Sieberg said the public safety antenna, which is at City Hall, will be able to withstand winds up to 100 miles per hour and freezing weather conditions.

A federal grant of about $40,000 awarded by the Department of Homeland Security two years ago paid for the new tower, Sieberg said.

The upgrade became apparent when new communication equipment was installed on the old tower three years ago, he said. Another Department of Homeland Security grant for about $60,000 paid to upgrade the communication system three years ago with new repeaters, which were also installed on a tower on Libby Hill and on a water tower on Capon Road, Sieberg said.

A control installed at the tower on Libby Hill automatically determines which of the three repeater locations to use, Sieberg said.

The previous tower at the fire department was built 12 years ago with parts from two older towers that Sieberg guessed to be 50 years old.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

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