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Town council gets handle on 5G installations

By Staff | May 13, 2020

The council held a planning and management session May 7 in which it discussed the arrival of 5G, a new cellular phone technology network which is expanding nationally and locally and has been the subject of some controversy for the towers being installed.

Concern about network installations as illustrated in a League of Cities publication led to Thursday’s discussion, Mayor Roger Hernstadt said. “This is the first sort of big obvious case where the state has pre-empted local governments. Normally, we would have some permitting control over communication devices,” he said.

“This is really the first case that I’m aware of, (town attorney) John (Herin Jr.) may be (aware) of others, where basically they can come in and tell use ‘we’re putting it in here’ and there is literally nothing we can do about it.”

Hernstadt said a couple 5G devices have been installed in town. “We had one that we didn’t like the location, we talked to the installer” and the location was changed, he said. “That’s the extent of what we can do to control where these poles and devices go,” Hernstadt said.

Herin said some jurisdictions have adopted ordinances to regulate new installations, such as Coral Gables, and recommended the council adopt a similar measure.

Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said it would be good to put forward legislation “so we have some idea of where they are putting things so we can communicate with them.” In Coral Gables, providers are required to provide plans upon request and need right-of-way permits, she said. Hernstadt said the providers are providing plans and getting permits for the work. Hosafros asked whether they should be required to register their plans with the town.

Councilmember Jim Atterholt said telecommunication companies are “extremely concerned about what entities like Coral Gables have done.” Atterholt, who chaired the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said the ordinance could be helpful in dealing with “small actors.”

Hosafros said some 5G devices are going up around the state in front of historic structures and art installations towns have paid for. “My experience personally with the business of getting my internet, my cable, etc. I have found a lack of respect and a lack of service from those providers personally so they haven’t built up a very good reputation with me,” Hosafros said.

Atterholt said the town should build relationships with providers and not create an “adversarial relationship.”

Herin said the town should focus on regulations to protect the town. He said the town should require those who install 5G towers to repair any damage they may cause to public sidewalks.

Atterholt said Herin should contact telecommunication companies as he drafts regulations. “As they look at where they are going to expand, and the pace of their expansion, and who goes first and who goes last, they do look at these ordinances. I just want to make sure ours is in sync with them in a way that creates a spirit of cooperation and not adversarial because if we do that, then we go to the bottom of the list.”Atterholt said the “advantage of 5G for both residents and businesses are dramatic.”

Murphy suggested Atterholt be the town’s liaison with the providers. Atterholt said he would work with Herin on crafting the ordinance. Hernstadt said staff will draft an ordinance with the framework of Coral Gables as a model.