An effort to improve communication with neighbors has paid off for Medford officials seeking an end to a yearlong controversy over a 130-foot radio tower.
The City Council on Thursday signaled it would consider a $127,900 proposal to move the tower on Capital Hill and shorten it by 30 feet, but put it in a location that would be farther from surrounding houses.
Medford Police Chief Tim George recommended the new location on Medford Water Commission land after meeting with neighbors on several occasions.
He said the Police Department had previously looked at the site but rejected it because it would cost more.
"In my opinion, this is where it should have been put to begin with," George said.
The council didn't take formal action on the proposal, but told George to proceed with the idea of relocating the tower, which will be used by police and fire departments to improve signal coverage in Medford.
George said neighbors will be notified of any future meetings that lead to a formal council vote on the tower.
Another option George offered but didn't recommend was to shorten the existing tower by 12 feet at a cost of $30,745.
The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals determined the tower was built too close to a nearby residence.
The city erected the tower in December 2010 without informing the neighborhood, and it never became operational.
"Communication is the key to the tower, and it's the key to working with the community," said Buzz Thielemann, who lives in the Capital Hill neighborhood.
Thielemann also had recommended shielding a red light on the tower that has annoyed neighbors, an idea endorsed by the police chief and council.
So far, the city has budgeted $199,680 for the new tower. Under the proposal to move it, the total cost would rise to $327,580, which includes $3,000 to shield the red light.
The city spent $160,163 to build the tower before outcry from the neighborhood stopped the project. Most of the structure can be moved to the new location. An additional $39,517 previously had been set aside to build an antenna array on top of the tower.
Capital Hill first got a police radio tower in 1989 because of its central location.
PCR Inc. of Beavercreek submitted the only bid to move the tower.
George said the police department budget would cover the additional cost through savings from police officer positions that haven't been filled.
The tower would replace a 60-foot tower now situated farther south on the same property.
Despite the higher cost, the council endorsed the idea of putting the tower on a higher location on Capital Hill next to the Medford Water Commission's reservoirs.
"I still think the right thing to do is put it on top of the hill," said councilman Bob Strosser.
Mayor Gary Wheeler said, "It seems to me a reasonable thing to do to go ahead and move the tower."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.