Md. offers $100,000 to build tower County would pay $200,000 for facility at hospital site

March 10, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The state has offered $100,000 to help build an emergency communications tower at Springfield Hospital Center, making the county's option to put equipment on a controversial cellular tower in Sykesville less attractive.

The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems would give the money toward the estimated $300,000 cost of constructing a 220-foot tower on the state hospital grounds.

"Financial support from the state lowers the county's stake considerably," Jay Nave, administrative assistant for the county Bureau of Roads Operations and tower project director, told the Carroll County Planning Commission on Thursday.

The hospital tower would be the final segment of the county's $8 million emergency operations system. Equipment will be located on seven towers -- six already built -- throughout the county. Only South Carroll, where the hilly terrain causes gaps in transmission, lacks an antenna location for the system.

The Planning Commission had asked Mr. Nave to study the feasibility of locating an antenna on a 180-foot tower on Hollenberry Road, less than one mile from the hospital site. Installation costs would be about $50,000, he said.

West Shore Communications, contractor for Cellular One, has offered free space on the Hollenberry Road tower, but made the offer with unacceptable conditions, Mr. Nave said. Free space for county communications equipment is available, if the county drops its lawsuit against the contractor.

In December, West Shore built the telecommunications tower on privately owned land, just outside the town of Sykesville. The project, mired in controversy for three years, was completed despite a lawsuit that is pending in the Court of Special Appeals.

"If they are suing me, I am not letting them on the tower," said Mark Sapperstein, vice president of West Shore. "If they drop the suit, the space is theirs as long as there is no interference with existing equipment. If we go to court, I will not negotiate anymore."

The town, the county and neighbors of the tower are participating in the suit, scheduled for a hearing April 11, with a decision possible by July 1.

"Even if the county drops out, there is no way to force the other parties to do the same," Mr. Nave said.

The commissioners differ on the project. At a time when the county is facing severe budget problems, scrapping plans for a new tower could still save taxpayers about $150,000.

"I am offering an opportunity to save and will give them the same results," Mr. Sapperstein said. Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates are opposed to the Hollenberry Road tower and are adamant that the county will not use it. They say they favor the hospital site.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he would wait for the outcome of the lawsuit, but he calls the Hollenberry Road site a more economical option.

If West Shore tower opponents are successful in court, Mr. Sapperstein could be required to tear down the tower.

Mr. Nave also found that if the county built on the existing tower, the cellular antenna would interfere with transmissions from the county's receiving antenna. But those technical difficulties are not insurmountable, he said.

The county could recoup much of its construction costs by leasing Springfield tower space to other users.

"The Springfield tower actually could become a revenue producer for Carroll County," said Mr. Nave.

The county will advertise for bids on the Springfield tower within two weeks and should award the contract in May. Plans call for construction of the tower and an equipment storage building on a one-quarter acre site.

"We need this system to be up and operational as soon as possible," said Mr. Nave.

Pub Date: 3/10/96

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