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Alternative to controversial Washington County radio tower site considered

November 07, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County is considering an alternative to a much-opposed radio tower site planned for the southern tip of the county.

Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth II said Wednesday evening that a private landowner has offered nearby property as an alternative to the site that is planned near the intersection of Keep Tryst and Sandy Hook roads.

If the alternative site is approved by the county, it could bring an end to roughly two years of wrangling between preservationists and the county over where the radio tower will be built.

The county plans to construct a 190-foot radio tower in the area for its new public safety communications system.

The Keep Tryst site has received considerable opposition from local residents and the National Park Service, who argue that a radio tower would spoil views from places such as Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Potomac River, the C&O Canal and the Appalachian Trail.

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In a meeting Wednesday with county staff, National Park Service officials said the alternative site would be less obtrusive than the original tower site.

Pamela Underhill, park manager for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, said a tower on the alternative site would be better because the site is closer to the mountainside.

"In that location, the tower wouldn't be skylighted. It would have a land mass behind it," Underhill said.

The county plans to conduct a balloon test from the alternative site in December and hopes to hold a public meeting in the area in January, Kroboth said.

During the meeting with the park service Wednesday, county staff also reviewed several additional alternative sites proposed by the park service. Those sites had been dismissed by the county, which argued they would not provide adequate radio coverage.

On Wednesday, park service engineers agreed with the county's assessment, Kroboth and Underhill said.

A park service proposal to use the original tower site but split the 190-foot tower into two shorter towers also had been dismissed by the county as unreliable.

The park service engineers also agreed with that assessment Wednesday, Kroboth and Underhill said.

The county hopes to move the Washington County Sheriff's Department to the new communications system by July 2009 and have all emergency service agencies on the system by the end of 2009, Kroboth said.

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