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EDITORIAL: Something is happening on Short Hill Mountain, and residents deserve answers

It’s been a year since we poked around Short Hill Mountain trying to explain something.

Residents who live near the ridge wondered what was happening there. It was hard to ignore the construction equipment that stripped trees from the ridge line, destroying the view, for the installation of something.

Something.

A data center? A communications relay station? A telephone transmission utility substation? Who knows?

Something. The double talk from AT&T, which is doing something up there, just keeps coming. County officials play along, complicit in the secret, redacting details from public records that disclose truth.

Bowing to public pressure, AT&T suspended visible construction on the ridge line. What AT&T didn’t disclose, at least publicly, was that it seems to have moved the project inside the mountain. A bunker.

All that AT&T -- or county officials, for that matter -- will now acknowledge is this: AT&T is renovating a Cold War facility with more modern and efficient technology. It contends the facility is a telephone transmission utility substation

A telephone substation inside a bunker? Really? In this county we’re too knowledgeable about communications systems, government installations and cyber scenarios to buy a cover story that insults our intelligence. What we do know is that something more is going on inside Short Hill Mountain, something with the code name “Project Aurelia."

“This is and has been a government site up there since 1963,” Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) told the Times-Mirror last year. Higgins, however, would not comment on the “Project Aurelia” documents filed with the county. Nor would Ricky Barker, the county’s planning and zoning director.

With cover from the county, AT&T is at it again, rattling nerves and fueling speculation about something inside Short Hill Mountain. The silence from our elected representatives is deafening.

In coming weeks, the county is expected to approve the final land-development application of the secret project, a document exempt from public disclosure. Accountability and explanations should come first. It’s the secret, not the knowing, that raises suspicions and fears.

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