OTISFIELD — A solution may be at hand to provide Otisfield with improved emergency communication after an attempt to build a cell tower on Scribner Hill that would have provided space for the Fire Department communication equipment failed.

“Norway has offered us access to their Frost Hill tower,” said Otisfield fire Chief Michael Hooker. “(Norway fire Chief) Dennis Yates came to me and offered to share space with us to provide coverage in the north end of town.”

If all goes according to plan, equipment will be placed on the Frost Hill cell tower on Frost Hill in Norway to provide expanded emergency radio coverage in both Otisfield and Norway by late September, said Yates. Both towns will have a repeater near the top of the tower and equipment to prevent each from interfering with the other in case of dual transmissions.

“We hope it will make a big difference,” said Yates, who has received a $32,000 Maine Emergency Management Agency grant to pay for Norway’s equipment.

Hooker said he will talk to the Board of Selectmen at its next meeting about spending $15,000 to pay for the equipment for his department. Hooker said he budgeted pieces of the plan into his fiscal 2014 budget but might need some money from the Reserve Fund.

Attempts to improve the almost non-functioning cell and emergency radio coverage throughout Otisfield were dashed earlier this year when U.S. Cellular pulled out of a plan to build a cell tower on Scribner Hill after a local group of concerned residents took protracted legal action to stop the project.

Otisfield spent nearly $50,000 to defend itself against legal action by the Friends of Scribner Hill, saying the process that approved the U.S. Cellular application was faulty. The legal issue died in May when U.S. Cellular withdrew its application and the Oxford County Superior Court dismissed the case as moot.

The new plan will not expand cell coverage but will provide much needed expanded emergency communication capability in many parts of Otisfield that now have no emergency communication access.

“The Scribner Hill site would have given us better coverage,” said Hooker. “It was more centrally located. All systems have holes in it, but we wouldn’t have needed the Frost Hill site (if Scribner Hill had come through.)”

The opportunity to provide better radio coverage for Norway, and in turn, Otisfield, was provided last December when Global Tower Partners of Falmouth applied for a permit to construct communications tower on a 10.75-acre parcel at 209 Frost Hill Road.

Norway currently has a repeater on the Oxford County Regional Communications Center tower on Streaked Mountain in Buckfield, but the new equipment will provide better communications in the area of Dunn, French and Wiley roads.

 The department had a structure fire on the corner of French and Dunn roads. “We had an awful time communicating,” said Yates of the fire last year that partially destroyed a farmhouse.

 The departments will share an antenna and have individual repeaters installed on the tower and special equipment that will ensure that neither department will overlap the other if there are dual communications.

 The two towns will pay for an 8-by-8-foot shed to house equipment.

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