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Washington County says alternate sites for communications tower won't work

Next public hearing won't be held before mid-September, officials say

Next public hearing won't be held before mid-September, officials say

July 28, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County officials said last week it likely will be at least a month before a public comment meeting is held on a proposed radio tower in southern Washington County.

The County Commissioners agreed in April to hold the meeting after receiving hundreds of complaints about the proposed tower site.

Since then, county officials said they have been reviewing alternative sites and are working to schedule a meeting with the National Park Service, which is opposed to the site and has suggested several alternatives.

Many critics have said the county has not fully vetted the alternatives suggested by the park service.

County officials have said none of the sites suggested by the park service would work.

"We want to make sure we have satisfied everything with the park service before we have this public meeting," Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said.

At the earliest, the public comment meeting could be scheduled in mid- to late September, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

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The tower is one of 10 proposed under a plan to upgrade the county's emergency communications network, which will allow all police and fire and rescue agencies to communicate with each other during emergencies.

The network is tenatively scheduled to be operating by the middle of 2009.

The proposed tower site, near the intersection of Keep Tryst and Sandy Hook roads, has angered many people who say a 190-foot tower there would obstruct views in the area.

The site is less than a mile from Harpers Ferry National Park, the Potomac River, the C&O Canal and the Appalachian Trail.

County officials have said the site is needed to provide reliable radio coverage south of Boonsboro.

The county held a public information meeting about the site in March, but the meeting was heavily criticized because people were only allowed to submit comments and questions in writing.

In April, the county commissioners agreed to hold a public meeting in which people will be able to comment and ask questions.

At a county commissioners' meeting in Boonsboro last week, Mullendore told the commissioners that he hopes the park service meeting will be scheduled for late August or early September.

Mullendore said Tuesday that an important hurdle to that meeting was cleared recently when technical analysts for the park service signed nondisclosure agreements with Motorola, which is developing the communications system.

After signing the agreements, park service analysts will be able to view coverage data for the radio system.

The meeting with park service officials might also include discussion of alternative sites, including two the county is evaluating, Mullendore said.

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