New Northern County Cell Tower Talks Heat Up

SNOW HILL –  Talk of a new cell tower near Route 90 continues at the county level.

The Worcester County Commissioners agreed to send Verizon a letter this week asking company officials to meet to discuss options for a new tower near Route 90. The commissioners have voted down previous requests for a tower at the Ocean Pines Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“As somebody who drops a call every time I go across Route 90, I can tell you there is a need for a tower somewhere along that corridor,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said.

At the close of Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said he wanted to reopen the discussion on a Route 90 cell tower. A motion by Commissioner Bud Church to approve a request from Verizon to install a pole at the Ocean Pines Wastewater Treatment Plant failed to get a second in February. Commissioners Chip Bertino and Jim Bunting, who represent the Ocean Pines area, have been vocal in their opposition.

“The public, the people that live in that district, do not want it,” Bunting said.

He added that the county did not yet know what effect the new tower on Gum Point Road would have and that the county had another site — its Isle of Wight facility — that could be explored as a tower location.

“To bring this back, which we’ve already discussed in my district and Chip’s district, is wrong,” he said. “It should be dead. It should be over with and it shouldn’t be brought up anymore.”

Bertino asked Nordstrom if he wanted to reopen the discussion regarding a tower at the wastewater treatment plant specifically. Nordstrom said he did.

“We’ve had that conversation multiple times,” Bertino said. “How many times does this thing have to be pushed down? We have discussed it, we have voted on it, it’s not up to the county do decide where Verizon is going to get the best reception. That’s up to them. The county’s already made its decision multiple times. I think it’s just a waste of effort and time. Nothing has changed.”

Church said Verizon had identified the best location for a tower — at the wastewater treatment plant.

“So what…,” Bertino said. “They’re not doing anything to find another place to put it because they think that’s the easiest way and they’ll be able to charge for rent on that tower to other providers.”

Bunting said he’d walked the wastewater treatment plant property with staff when the Ocean Pines Association had been in search of a bulkhead staging area. He said there was no free space on the property.

Bertino stressed the Ocean Pines residents, as well as their county representatives, had spoken twice against putting a tower there.

“It appears from what I’ve heard there’s a push to push this into Ocean Pines so Verizon will acquiesce to put towers in other locations in this county that would be beneficial to other districts,” Bertino said. “If that’s the case I don’t think that’s fair to Ocean Pines.”

Mitrecic suggested inviting Verizon to discuss the feasibility of a tower at the Isle of Wight facility or elsewhere along Route 90. Nordstrom said he would support that. Bertino agreed that he would too but stressed the site in the Pines should be off the table.

“I don’t think it’s incumbent upon the county to solve their problem since we’ve already said no to this particular location,” he said.

The commissioners agreed to send the company a letter asking for a discussion. In an interview after the meeting, Nordstrom said he brought the issue up because he wanted Worcester County to be a top priority for Verizon.

“There are lots of areas in this county that have poor cell phone coverage or no cell phone coverage,” he said. “This needs to be a total county approach. Every inch of Worcester County should have strong signal.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.