Shamokin PA

Cell tower project remains stalled

SHAMOKIN — Work remains stalled on a cell phone tower project in Shamokin Cemetery that was expected to generate sorely-needed revenue to better maintain the historic graveyard.

To date, only a concrete pad has been poured for the tower.

Shamokin Mayor William Milbrand, who serves as president of Shamokin Cemetery Company, said no work involving the project has occurred at the cemetery since last fall. He attributed the work stoppage to ongoing legal issues regarding charges filed against him that were later withdrawn, and his federal lawsuit against the two city police officers involved with his arrest.

The mayor said he and officials with the project contractor, Try-Mac Towers LLC, of Southern Pines, North Carolina, are “cautious” about the work continuing until some of the legal issues are resolved. Efforts to reach Try-Mac officials Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The cemetery company was expected to receive $900 per month in rent for the 199-foot cell tower.

Milbrand was charged by now retired Patrolman William Miner with allowing dirt to cover 14 gravesites at the cemetery in his role as cemetery company president during excavation work for the cell phone tower.

Miner and Patrolman Nathan Rhodes took Milbrand into custody Jan. 31 at his bus company along Trevorton Road. Milbrand was charged by Miner with 42 counts of institutional vandalism and desecrating venerable objects and burial places that were withdrawn less than a month later due to lack of evidence.

Last month, attorney Robyn F. McGrath, of Philadelphia, who represents Miner and Rhodes, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against them.

McGrath challenged the $375,000 lawsuit on several grounds, including Milbrand’s failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted by receiving punitive damages. She claims “the complaint fails to allege conduct on the part of the defendants which is sufficiently extreme and outrageous to justify an imposition of punitive damages.”

Milbrand didn’t sue the City of Shamokin itself, but McGrath argues that the mayor’s suit against the officers is a claim against the city. She said a municipality or governmental entity may be held liable for an employee’s violation of a citizen’s constitutional rights only if the plaintiff can show there was an alleged constitutional violation behind the policy.