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Experts relay reasons for siting communication pole iIn park

By Patti S. Borda

Tuesday - 10/18/2011, 12:19pm  ET

A 190-foot communication pole will be raised in Frederick's Hill Street Park unless the city cancels a lease agreement with Frederick County, Planning Commission members concluded at Monday's workshop.

They confirmed with Gabrielle Dunn, manager of current planning for the city, that the commission's only role in the matter at this point will be to recommend screening and fencing, not a location. The commission will hold a public hearing on Nov. 14.

Planning Commissioner Gary Brooks asked county staff to demonstrate that alternative sites were considered for the pole, which communications experts said is needed on high ground on the city's west side.

Jack Markey, Frederick County Emergency Management director, listed four sites in the vicinity and the reasons that Hill Street Park is currently the No. 1 choice. Markey said the county considered Hargett Farm, state property near I-70, sharing space with broadcast radio towers on private property, and attaching it to the city's Butterfly Lane water tower.

The telecommunications equipment is scheduled to be in place this year as part of an $18 million countywide upgrade in emergency radio equipment.

The city planning department said the water tower could not be used because a $1 million lead paint abatement is not scheduled for at least two years, said Stephen Haller, administrator of the Frederick Police Department's Technical Services Bureau.

Completing the lead paint abatement at the water tower after the pole would be in place would require taking the equipment off-line, reducing radio operability in a critical part of the city, Haller said. There is not enough land around the water tower to put the pole on the site, Markey said.

All but the water tower location would have poor radio transmission, either because of obstructionsor interference from other signals, Markey said.

The county paid $100,000 for an engineering study at the Hill Street site because the city agreed to lease the location, and that would be the cost to study any other location, Markey said.

"We've followed the rules," Haller said.

Alderwoman Kelley Russell, liaison to the commission, said the aldermen approved the lease for the pole because it was the best location for the needed equipment. It will improve public safety and as an essential service can be placed in the park without any special permission, Russell said.

Dunn said that the city's land management code directs the city to choose nonresidential locations for things such as the pole when possible, but the other locations that have been suggested in this case are also mostly residential.

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