HAMPSTEAD — A group of residents say they hope the county's new Board of Commissioners will take a fresh look at their 6-year-old complaint over blinking lights on the WGRX-FM radio tower.
"It's an annoyance," said Sean Gibbons, an Allview Drive resident since 1984, of the strobe lights on the station's tower.
Gibbons has circulated and submitted a petition asking county officials to conduct a public hearing and to order WGRX to replace the strobe lights with a system using a strobe by day and continuous red lights at night.
The petition has the 50 names required to get a hearing, Gibbons said. More names are being gathered. Gibbons said he hopes to match the 300 names he collected for a similar petition in 1985.
The commissioners at that time voted not to force the station to make the change.
Dwight O. Dingle, acting general manager of WGRX and general manager of sister station WTTR in Westminster, said that the flashing lights are much safer than continuous red lights would be.
Both stations are owned by Shamrock Communications in York, Pa.
"If I lived in an area where there was a tower, I would want that tower lit so that airplanes didn't crash into it," said Dingle, who lives in Reisterstown.
"Strobe lights are much more visible than red lights are, especially at night in bad weather," Dingle said.
He said Federal Aviation Administration guidelines back that contention.
But the FAA does allow the red lights, and Gibbons is armed with letters from most of the area's state legislators urging the commissioners to heed the residents' request.
Letters supporting residents' complaints have been sent to the commissioners by Delegates Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, and Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore, and state Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, because the tower is visible from parts of nearby Baltimore County, Gibbons said.
"Some of my constituents complain about the strobe lights creating a disco-like effect on their otherwise tranquil surroundings," Sauerbrey wrote in her letter to Carroll's County Commissioners in February.
Dixon was instrumental in 1985 in writing a law that passed the General Assembly, allowing the commissioners to have the power to order the station to switch to the red lights.
Gibbons said he believes the station doesn't want to spend moneyto make the switch.
But Dingle said expense is not an issue -- safety is. He said he doesn't know how much it would cost to switch.
The WGRX tower is 700 feet high. The WTTR tower has the red lightingthat Gibbons and his neighbors want WGRX to install, but Dingle saidthe WTTR tower on Uniontown Road is only 300 feet high.
After residents complained the first time, the station reduced the intensity of the strobe lights by half, Dingle said.
"We voluntarily did thatas a gesture of good faith," Dingle said.
Gibbons said the gesture was made only because the residents were pressing for it and complaining to the Federal Communications Commission.