The Grosse Pointe Farms city council told U.S. Border Patrol officers Monday that before they will consider the application to install a radar at the top of the tower on the grounds of the Grosse Pointe Club they must meet with residents.
U.S. Border Patrol has filed a proposal for a variance request to allow the installation of a radar at the top of a tower built on the grounds of the Grosse Pointe Club in June 2011. Currently a camera is on top of the tower after Border Patrol put the radar request on an indefinite hold due to the negative public reaction in August 2011.
The which is bordered by the United States and Canada, which is close enough to the Grosse Pointes and Detroit that it can be seen across the lake.
There are 11 other towers set up to monitor the waterways in and around Detroit but only one other tower equipped with radar, which is Gull Island--an uninhabitated island in the north end of Lake St. Clair. The other towers do not need a radar because they are monitoring a more closed are of riverways rather than open waterways like Lake St. Clair, Lambert said.
This is the second time the proposal has been presented to the council. Though Monday night was intended to be an informational session for the council by Border Patrol, there was turnout by residents at the meeting. The actual proposal is slated to be considered and voted upon during the council's March meeting.
In June 2011, after building the tower, Border Patrol announced their desire to place a radar on top of it in addition to the camera. Council denied the radar request in part because it was not included in the written plans submitted to the city.
All members of the council in their own words shared a unified message Monday with Border Patrol: talk to the residents, answer their questions and provide them with information. The council said they would like this to happen before Border Patrol comes before the council looking for a decision.
At least two council members critcized the manner in which Border Patrol handled the current proposal: the plan was submitted to city officials last Thursday and a letter was sent to some residents of their appearance before council Monday but at least a few present in the audience said they learned of the meeting through other ways.
Deputy Patrol Agent in Charge Gregory Lambert spoke to council and took note of the concerns. He answered some questions posed by the council and also tried to answer questions posed by residents after exiting the meeting.
Lambert said the radar will help Border Patrol agents to better identify those people trying to smuggle drugs or enter the country illegally because it will provide officers with exact coordinates of where they dock once they've reached the U.S. He said the radar is an enhancement to the current surveillance camera already in place, which is generally only helpful in the daytime and in good weather.
He addressed some of the privacy concerns shared by council, explaining the radar will have "blank outs" as far as the land is concerned, saying the agents are not concerned about what's happening in Grosse Pointe Farms but what's going on in Lake St. Clair.
Additionally, he addressed health concerns by explaining the radar sends signal in pulses, so for every 24 hours of radar it transmits for 20 seconds--an amount he said is far less exposure than what a typical person gets by talking on a cell phone.
The radar, Lambert said, will face the lake and will leave the tower in a cone-like shape, meaning those on the ground below the tower will not be impacted as the signal will be going into the lake.
When asked why the proposal is coming before council now, Lambert said Border Patrol gave the community time to adjust to the tower and the camera, explaining they've "built good will" within the community and showed they want to work with the highly populated area on the project. He said somone from the Little Club was suppose to attend Monday's council meeting to share their approval for the project. No one from the club addressed council.
Councilman Louis Theros told Lambert that his answers were "heavy in science and light on the common sense side," explaining he's often accused of doing the same thing as a lawyer but the need for the other side for residents is necessary with such a proposal.
Mayor James Farquhar requested to put public comment about the radar on hold until after Border Patrol holds a community meeting because ideally such a presentation would answer many of the potential questions that would have been posed Monday. Farquhar told the audience it seemed more efficient to just do it once.
Rose Terrace resident Joseph D. Greiner, who vehemently opposed the radar last time, spoke briefly Monday, telling council that if Border Patrol does indeed hold community meetings he would like an independent person to be present to record what actually happens. He said he believes Lambert misinformed the council Monday by saying they've been a great partner to the community.
Greiner said he doesn't think anyone on Rose Terrace would agree with anything Lambert said Monday. He also emphasized the need to have medical professionals at the meeting to detail the health risks associated with such a radar.
After the meeting, Lambert said Border Patrol intends to host four informational sessions with residents and others impacted by the installation of a radar. The intent is to hold the sessions before the next Farms council meeting, Lambert said, explaining they would like to seek approval then.
Lambert said Border Patrol does not have anything to hide and that the officers are being open and honest with residents about the plans. He said he did his best to answer questions posed to him Monday by residents, who expressed a wide range of feelings about the situation from being thankful to being angry about the radar.
Previously Lambert said the Department of Homeland Security has several options related to installing such equipment for national security: to lease, to buy or to condemn.The last of which the department has not done at all. Officials have chosen to work with the communities and they want to, he prevously told Patch.
No dates have been set for the community meetings but Lambert said his office will be working to get them scheduled so the public may be informed.
Farquhar also told residents the city would share information about any such meetings when officials are informed about them.
This is essentially the second time council has requested Border Patrol to host informational meetings with the residents.