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FCC approval sought for communications tower

July 13, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County moved a step closer to building its controversial South County emergency communications tower Tuesday when officials voted to submit the project application to the Federal Communications Commission.

The application will request FCC licensing to build the 190-foot tower at a site on private property near the base of Maryland Heights, where the county conducted balloon tests in November and March, Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III said.

The tower is needed to improve radio communication coverage for emergency responders at the southern end of the county and to complete the 10-tower system designed to support the county's new radio system, officials have said.

If granted, the FCC approval would end more than two years of controversy over the location of the tower. An original site proposal near the intersection of Keep Tryst and Sandy Hook roads drew protests over the tower's impact on scenic views from nearby parks and overlooks, so the county proposed the site closer to Maryland Heights as an alternative, Kroboth said.

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The more recent site drew less opposition, with only 16 comments of opposition received after a public information session compared to more than 160 comments after a meeting on the original site in 2008, Kroboth said.

Kroboth said the county could continue to meet with the National Park Service and other groups to address their remaining reservations about the site, but the commissioners agreed it was time to move forward.

"I think as a county we've done all we can to try to mitigate things," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said.

The FCC review process includes evaluation of the project's impact on historic properties and on potential interference with other radio frequency users, Kroboth said.

Kroboth also said the county has a deal with Motorola in which Motorola will build the tower at no cost to the county, but if the county does not move forward on the project soon, Motorola may withdraw that offer.

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