The siting of the tower had become a point of controversy in the populous county’s years-long quest for an updated communications system.
The current system, which according to a report provided to the Montgomery County Council has been outdated since 2009, has experienced lengthy outages in recent months — including for a 14-hour stretch during Mother’s Day weekend.
The county initially had planned to share the proposed state tower at the Intercounty Connector and Georgia Avenue in Olney as part of its new 22-tower public safety communications system.
But in March, Elrich (D) called for the county to find new locations for the Olney tower and a tower in Bretton Woods after community members objected, citing concerns about potential health and other effects.
The move put Elrich at odds with some public safety officials and County C ouncil members, who argued that the concerns that residents raised should not outweigh the safety risks posed by the condition of the current, 11-tower system.
Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said the county executive’s office was notified of the state’s decision to move forward with the tower. Elrich’s spokesman, Barry Hudson, did not comment Wednesday.
In May, the county’s chief administrative officer, Andrew Kleine, said the $45 million plan to upgrade the communications system would stay on schedule even without final approval of the two towers. But a County Council staff report said Elrich’s decision to try to relocate the towers could delay the completion by up to two years.
Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large), who had urged Elrich to move forward with the towers, said Hogan’s statement is a boon to public safety officials campaigning for an updated system.
“In effect, the governor is saying, ‘I’m going to build a tower here either way,’ ” Riemer said.
Riemer and council member Sidney Katz (D-District 3) are to sponsor a budget amendment Tuesday to explicitly list the two disputed locations as part of the new system that the county executive will be asked to approve.
Matt Quinn, the president of the Greater Olney Civic Association, which has been working with the county to find a new location for the tower proposed in Olney, said he sympathized with the challenges that first responders face but was disappointed with how the state and county governments had handled the upgrade.
“Now, they’re just going to ram it down our throats, and we’re supposed to say, ‘Gee, thanks’?” Quinn said. “It’s terrible government, [but] as a little tiny community like Olney, we’re pretty powerless to do anything.”
Two weeks ago, Hogan criticized county officials as “standing in the way” of building the tower.
“Reliable communications can mean the difference between life and death,” the governor wrote on Twitter.