tower public hearing draws a crowd
Monday, August 27, the Cottonwood City Council held 3 Public Hearings.
The one gaining the most interest concerned the proposed Verizon cell tower.
The council chambers were nearly full with most in attendance against the city granting a conditional use permit for Verizon.
According to Federal law, health reasons can’t be the reason such a structure is denied, but that appeared to be the primary concern of those in attendance.
A couple of citizens noted that smoking and the use of asbestos were accepted practices until it was later found out that both were very harmful and they wanted to caution that we don’t know enough about radio-frequency (RF) radiation from cell towers yet.
Vicki Shears came armed with over 200 pages of research she’s done on the Internet, finding studies and concerns about cell tower radiation.
Rod McKayless of Verizon was in attendance and directed people to check out the Federal Communications Commission and Environmental Protection Agency websites for their studies.
He noted cell towers are limited to 500 watts but reach that only if everyone on the system is using their phone. He reported average emission is at 100 watts, about what your standard light bulb puts out. Also the RF frequency used is non-ionizing, meaning it doesn’t cause cell damage.
McKayless also noted that hospitals in Spokane have requested service inside of their buildings and that he has had a tower located just outside his office for the past 5 years with no problems.
Other concerns expressed were that a cell tower in their neighborhoods would decrease their property values.
When asked if it could be put somewhere else, McKayless said their engineers looked at several other sites and, being engineers, they wanted the best option for the cost. The proposed site on city property near the Riding Club Arena would give them the best coverage of the city and also give them coverage of the highway. McKayless noted roughly half of all 911 calls anymore come from cellphones. Putting the tower on one of the hills across the highway would leave a lot of “shadows” in town that wouldn’t get good coverage.
The question came up about what the city makes off of this. Mayor Denis Duman said the lease agreement is for $500 per month which the city has earmarked to a special savings account for a new fire engine.
When questioned about that being a great deal or not for Verizon, McKayless said that’s pretty much the going rate and Duman confirmed that’s what he found when he checked into it.
When asked why on public property, McKayless said Verizon felt it would be better that the money went to public good where if it was put on private property, just the property owner would benefit. When asked what happens if the city denies the request, McKayless said they would likely look for another spot to serve Cottonwood. Verizon wants to give the people of Cottonwood service.
When asked if approved, how long before the tower is up and operating McKayless said probably 6 to 8 months.
Other concerns were that citizens living near the Riding Club Arena felt they should’ve received a letter asking if they supported or opposed the structure. By law Verizon only had to contact those living within 300 feet of the 50’x50’ piece of land they are proposing to lease which amounted to only 6 property owners.
One person that spoke in favor of the cell tower was LaWanda Thomason, chief of security at NICI. She reported that better cell phone coverage would definitely help communications for the prison and that they were in favor of it.
After roughly an hour and a half of testimony and questions, Duman closed the hearing and told those in attendance they would do a “Finding of Facts” on the matter using the testimony from this hearing and those held with the Planning & Zoning Commission and make their decision at the next city council meeting based on the Finding of Facts. The next council meeting is Monday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.
In other action on the night a public hearing was held on the amended fiscal year 2007 budget. With no testimony for or against, the council voted to approve the amended FY 2007 budget.
The council also held a hearing on the fiscal year 2008 budget. Butch Walker and Marietta Holman of Walco, Inc. were present about their 10% increase request. They noted the city had just a 5% increase budgeted. They said they didn’t put in a request for an increase last year because they were dealing with the county at that time and that cost of living has gone up 7% since their last request. They’ve also taken on their own trucking of garbage to the Payette landfill. Walker said if they hadn’t done that they’d probably be looking at a 20-30% increase request due to the increased costs from their hauler.
Walker said “fuel drives the cost of everything.”
After some discussion the council passed a motion to change the 5% increase in the budget to an 8% increase which would amount to about $1.30 per month more than currently charged for residential users.
With that change made the council then passed the Annual Appropriation Ordinance.
The council adjourned at 9:30 p.m.