LEONARDTOWN, Md. – On October 18, 2022, the St. Mary’s County Commissioners approved a Verizon cell tower site at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds. This comes after several years of cellular coverage issues in that area.
The $320,000 cell tower will cover a wide range of areas surrounding the fairgrounds, including the St. Mary’s County Public Schools buildings.
“It’s different from previous years when Verizon would bring in the mobile unit,” stated Bob Kelly, Chief Information Officer for St. Mary’s County Government. “This year they still brought in the mobile unit, but they actually installed fiber infrastructure to that mobile unit in preparation for this lease, and we were able to benefit from that.”
Kelly would go on to explain how they used the backhaul that the new agreement will rely on for better coverage for the County Fair and the Oyster Festival.
The new antenna would reach about 140 to 150 feet in the air for a wide range of coverage.
“In that area, the struggle with cellular service and doing business is difficult,” stated Commissioner John O’Connor. “You lose it coming around Fairgrounds Road at the intersection, even when the fair is not there. Then as you drop down that hill going towards St. Andrew’s Church, forget about it… AT&T seems to be all right there, not so much Verizon…but any improvement there will make a big difference… and hopefully, we won’t have to worry about cell signals dropping out when the bell rings at Leonardtown.”
Kelly would also state that in the four days that the Verizon mobile unit was stationed at the fairgrounds, they had 30,000 unique hits on their network.
“It was much better this year, and you could actually make a phone call,” stated Mr. Richards the President of the Fair Board. “We’re happy to see it on there, it’s been a struggle, and we thank Bob Kelly for really sticking up for us and working with Verizon to get something put together.”
Commissioner Todd Morgan[R] stated concerns about why they were giving Verizon 12 years for free.
“In our negotiations with Verizon, we were not in a very strong position.,” Kelly explained. “Verizon has a five and ten-year plan, and this location was not in their five-year plan. Last fall, we sent a letter to the president of three commercial wireless providers to address this area, and Verizon was the only one that responded. So in the negotiations, we weren’t really in a strong position, so basically the 12 years not paying for the lease, repays them for the investment they’re laying out.”
Commissioner John O’Connor[R] would go on to address some concerns the public may have after hearing that by saying the return on investment from all of the vendors and services that will use the new coverage would be beneficial for the county in the long run.
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