Tower trap Saving $250,000 wouldn't be worth the loss in legal dispute.


CARROLL'S COMMISSIONERS are faced with a choice: They can build a 200-foot radio tower for the county's emergency services system at Springfield Hospital Center for about $300,000, or they can avail themselves of Cellular One's offer of free space on its Hollenberry Road tower.

Simple choice, right? Wrong.

Though hard-pressed to make budget ends meet, county officials should not even think twice about Cellular One's offer. They should reject it.

At a time when the commissioners are scrambling to save pennies, the allure of getting free antenna space is considerable. If the county took advantage of Cellular One's offer, the only cost to the county would be about $50,000 for equipment. The savings of $250,000 looks attractive enough to override any other considerations.

But the taxpayers' interests would not be served by this one-time savings. Not if it means that the county government would be forced to allow future towers to be built so close to residential property or on conservation-zoned land.It is much more important for the county not to compromise its position that the location of this tower has been wrong from the beginning and that it should not set a precedent for future tower construction. Although the commissioners had imposed a stop work order on the tower in fall 1994, a judge ruled that it was imposed too late and allowed construction of the tower to continue.

In addition, any government action that conveys tacit approval of the tower compromises the county's position that the Board of Zoning Appeals improperly approved it.

Even though the county is no longer a plaintiff in the lawsuit now pending before the Court of Special Appeals, it supports the town of Sykesville, which is pursuing the lawsuit. By using the tower, the county would undercut the legal and moral case against it.

Cellular One's offer of free space has been around since the beginning of this battle. Cellular One executives knew that the county could not justify opposing the tower if it took advantage of the free space.

As long as a court case is pending, the county should not accept anything of value from Cellular One.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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