State says county can build emergency radio tower at Springfield Hospital


The state will allow Carroll County to build a telecommunications tower for its emergency operations radio system at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

The county has been looking for a suitable site in South Carroll, where hilly terrain often causes gaps in radio communication coverage.

In a letter dated July 12, the state Department of General Services notified Howard S. Redman Jr., chief of the county Bureau of Emergency Operations, that the county may place "a stub antenna tower or build a separate tower" on the hospital grounds.

County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the county has been negotiating for antenna sites at Springfield. One of the two water towers at the center could be used for antennas.

"We would like to put a tower on the Springfield site," he said. "The last I heard from our Public Works [Department] is that the water tower would work."

G. Edward Ryan II, state director of wireless communications services, said the county request "will be given the highest priority."

Private communications vendors also may negotiate for locations the site.

Cellular One, a Greenbelt-based telecommunications company, is planning to build a 200-foot tower on Hollenberry Road, about a mile from the hospital. That project has faced stiff opposition from the county, the town of Sykesville and neighbors of the site.

The county turned down Cellular One's offer of free antenna space on its proposed tower. Mr. Brown has met several times with the telecommunications company to resolve the deadlock.

"I already suggested months ago that Cell One relocate at Springfield, because that is where we are going," said Mr. Brown.

"They were not interested."

Jeffrey Owens, Cellular One senior manager for real estate, said Springfield would not meet all the company's requirements.

"None of the alternative sites offer the same quality of coverage of the area as Hollenberry Road," Mr. Owens said.

Opponents of the Hollenberry Road tower, including the county, appealed to the Circuit Court. Two weeks ago, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. ruled in favor of West Shore Communications, contract builder for Cellular One, and lifted the county's stop-work order, imposed Oct. 31.

A little more than a week remains to file an appeal of the judge's decision with the state Court of Special Appeals.

While an appeal is considered, "we have instructed the county attorney to ask for a stay of the issuance of the building permit," said Mr. Brown.

Neighbors of the tower have said they will appeal and also have asked for a stay in construction. The town of Sykesville also is considering an appeal, which could take about a year.

"I don't know that the county has strong grounds for appeal," said Mr. Brown. "The judge ruled the company was vested in the project. That issue is clear. What is not clear are the issues the town is raising."

Meanwhile, the county will proceed with plans to locate a tower at Springfield. Officials must submit an outline, detailing the work it will perform and what equipment it would place at the hospital.

"Carroll County will [probably] be required to sign a lease agreement which must be approved by the [state] Board of Public Works prior to commencement of any work," Mr. Ryan wrote.

"In lieu of lease fees, the state would request permission to locate equipment at this location both now and for future projects."

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