After seven years of trying to improve Carroll County's emergency communications system through the construction of a tower in the Lineboro area, county public safety officials are close to breaking ground.
"It's moving along very well, and it's well overdue," said County Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr., who received an update at yesterday's quarterly meeting with the county's emergency services group. "Hopefully, we'll have this thing up and running before cold weather comes."
But first, county officials have to receive approval for the site plans from the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, which has scheduled a review of the plans at its meeting Tuesday.
The 330-foot lattice-metal tower will be fitted with antennas and equipment at the base, said Scott R. Campbell, acting director of the county's public safety support services.
Campbell said the Baltimore engineering and architectural firm of Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani submitted the site plans for the tower and the 2,900-foot access road last week by the Aug. 2 deadline. Construction is expected to take 90 days.
The tower, budgeted at $900,000, will penetrate hard-to-reach areas. The tower is expected to improve communications for the Lineboro, Manchester and Hampstead fire companies.
"I think now that we have site plans we can see something of what it'll be, and it's going to enable us to respond and communicate as we should be able to do," said Marianne Warehime, president of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association. "It's so crucial to not only take care of the incident, but also make sure the [medical services] provider and firefighters are not in harm's way."
The tower will be built on 6 acres owned by Donald J. and Catherine L. Fasca Sr. on Alesia-Lineboro Road. The county signed an option to purchase the Fasca property for $100,000 in May last year.
"The land-acquisition effort took quite some time," Campbell said. "There's been a misperception that nothing was being done, but we had to find an appropriate site. There are so many different factors, and they all have to dovetail. It's a pretty complicated effort."
The search for a tower site began in July 1997, when the county switched to a 800- megahertz 911 emergency communications system, which already uses seven towers to transmit radio messages throughout the county.
But the towers had a weakness: an inability to reach dead spots in low-lying and hilly areas near Lineboro. Firefighters and police instead had to rely on the previous low-band radio system.
In September, the Carroll commissioners voted to buy the necessary easement for the project. They voted to enter into a $47,200 option to buy the rights to use 7 acres for a road and a "fall zone" around the tower that will be built on property adjacent to the Fasca land.
The county also is upgrading its 800-megahertz system to a high-band frequency that Campbell said will provide better coverage and better penetration into buildings. New pagers will be distributed for the upgrade.