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County board belatedly OKs comments on tower

April 18, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebooks:

· After a flood of e-mails, news stories, Mail Call items and a big batch of ill feeling all around, the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to hold a hearing on the proposed Sandy Hook emergency communications tower.

The difference, this time, will be that citizens will get to speak and ask questions. What remains to be seen is whether they will listen to officials' answers with an open mind.

In Joshua Bowman's Wednesday story on the issue, County Public Works Director Joe Kroboth was quoted on many of the issues raised and told me a lot more than I knew before.

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For instance, he said that a tower smaller than 190 feet isn't practical because several antennas must be stacked on the tower at 10-foot intervals.

I don't know whether that will satisfy critics of the tower project, but what I do know is this should be a lesson to local elected officials about how to deal with the people they serve.

As Kroboth said, the tower locations were made public two years ago, but for many of us, if it's not happening next week and won't cost us money immediately, it tends to fade into the overload of information we face every day.

This would be a good argument for changing the county commissioners from an at-large body to one elected by districts. Woe to a county councilmember who didn't keep his or her district informed about such things.

That's not likely to happen soon, so perhaps the council of governments idea that's been batted around would help.

Beyond that, elected officials need to realize that one of their duties is to educate citizens about what government does and why changes need to be made.

The average citizen has probably forgotten what happened during a 2002 emergency drill at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Officials said that due to an insufficient number of frequencies, fire and rescue workers were interfering with each other's transmissions.

The result was a multimillion-dollar update of the county's old emergency communications system.

Is a 190-foot tower the only way to do that? County officials will have to make that case when the hearing is held and answer all reasonable questions.

· Much of this is necessary because of growth, which at this point seems inevitable, though the economic slowdown might delay it for a few years.

Here's my question: What happened to all of the people who argued against things such as impact fees because they said it would make housing unaffordable here? Now that it's become a whole lot tougher for the average Joe or Jane to buy a home, what is their remedy?

· I recently completed the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's Master Gardener program. I learned a lot, but mostly just enough to realize how much I still don't know.

Nevertheless, I am pressing on with my blog (Weblog) on gardening. You can find it here.

On April 26, the group will hold a plant sale at the Ag Center on Sharpsburg Pike (Md. 65).

The sale will run from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will feature perennials, annuals, herbs, vegetables and native plants. There will also be a garden market featuring new and used tools, garden books and gifts.

And if you're not sure how to grow what you're buying, there will be free advice and fliers available.

The event will be held rain or shine. If you have questions, call 301-791-1604.

Bob Maginnis is
editorial page editor of
The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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