Residents asked transportation and Coast Guard officials to look for a new location for a proposed 299-foot tower in Mission Township.
The meeting, Thursday night at Breezy Point Resort, was sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Representatives from the Coast Guard flew in from Virginia to attend the session.
The Brainerd area would serve as the sole location for such a tower in the state. The tower is being designed in a nationwide network called a Differential Global Positioning System. The system is expected to provide greater land and water navigation over the current Global Positioning System and would be offered free to government, industry and the public.
Concerns from those attending the meeting Thursday night in Breezy Point involved frustrations for the way the first meeting notice was handled for a July 1999 meeting. No one attended the meeting. But residents said they never saw a listing for the meeting or received a mailed notice.
Rick Nolan, who attended the meeting, said today there were many pleas for transportation officials to reconsider the site location. And residents at the meeting received a scare thinking the tower was radioactive.
Mike Travis, MnDOT public affairs director, said today the site does not pose a hazard to public health and is not radioactive. A tower site would have a double fence and emit radiation within eight feet of the tower, which is within regulation standards and typical of any high-power lines, Travis said.
"It wasn't real clear last night," Nolan said. "They sure put a lot of scare into a lot of people."
Nolan and others who attended the session said they are not against the tower's use or the recognized benefits of the GPS system for navigation.
Benefits are accurate navigation on land and water for increased public safety, weather forecasting, surveying and precision farming. Another benefit comes from information such as a collision sensor that could send a preformated message to an emergency center when an accident occurs. Location accuracy could be within feet of the accident.
Nationwide it is expected the system will mean 66 sites. And reusing parts from decommissioned Ground Wave Emergency Network towers from the Air Force is expected to save the Department of Transportation about $10 million in NDGPs installation costs. It is one of the largest civil system conversions in history.
However, residents did say the way the tower site was picked could have been more upfront, open and more remote. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gary Schenk said the tower placement needs access to a suitable road and to public utilities. Putting in a road and power to a remote location becomes another spending issue.
Barb Uppgaard, who attended the meeting, said Crow Wing County Commissioner Ed Larsen and Crosslake Mayor Darrell Swanson talked about the area's tourism economy and opportunities to look at another location site.
Transportation officials said they looked for tax-forfeited land but were unable to find a spot. Crow Wing County Land Commissioner Tom Cowell said today his reaction to a tower request on tax-forfeited land would have been to discourage it. There are no towers on tax-forfeited land in the county. Cowell said he would have considered private land a better option than taking away from the forested area.
Schenk said they were there to listen to the public and no firm, final decision had been made to locate the tower on the Mission Township site.
"We are very concerned that people understand what we plan to do and hear their concerns," Schenk said Thursday before the meeting. "That's why we are here."
Today Uppgaard said in all her years of public and volunteer service she had never seen a greater abuse of power in what she called an arrogant move to locate the tower quietly.
"They had no consideration of our area and our economy," Uppgaard said. "... It's just a disgrace.
The Department of Transportation is working with the other federal agencies in the Department of Defense and Commerce to establish the nationwide system. The Coast Guard's expertise in the Maritime DGPS stations, which were fully operational a year ago, is why they were tapped for inland navigation.
Currently the Coast Guard's DGPS covers the nation's coast and the navigable waterways of the Mississippi River. It is a joint effort by seven federal agencies, including the Federal Highway Administration and the Coast Guard. The tower covers a 200 to 250 mile radius from the site, including all of Minnesota and parts of North Dakota and South Dakota, western portions of Lake Superior and Wisconsin.
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