Marion council reviews impact of new law on telecommunications

Marion City Administra­tor Roger Holter asked the city council at its Oct. 11 meeting for feedback regarding a recent telecommunications bill that went into law Oct. 1.

“Last session, our state legislature passed a bill that basically modified the zoning authority for placement of cell towers and cell infrastructures that no longer can be governed by municipalities,” he said.

Currently, the city does have the ability to control the height of towers and the placement of infrastructure, he said. Holter said his big­gest concern is with the 17 cubic feet maximum allowable size for the support.

“Imagine right out here where our sign and flagpole are,” he said. “That’s public right of way, and any cell phone provider could determine to put in a new tower and supporting equipment and that could result in a cabinet the size of a refrigerator.”

Councilor Chris Costello asked: “And a tower above that?”

Holter said it would be up to the city’s 65-foot limit in zoning regulations.

“Our existing regulations focused on towers for radio frequency or microwave transmission,” Holter added. “We have never gone in and looked at small cell placement to this point.”

In addition, he said, all cell phone providers elected to attach to existing infrastructure on the Cooperative Grain & Supply building and grain tower, which is where the last placement went.

“As technology advanc­es, it’s my belief we change our code as far as right of way uses,” he said.

Holter said the city’s planning and zoning commission needs to go meet and make recommendations.

“My recommendation on that would be we go for an underground required of controlled units,” Holter said.

He said AT&T has been were agreeable in running fiber optic cable throughout the city.

“There are four vaults down Santa Fe, and now that the grass has grown back, nobody even knows they exist, and these are 16 cubic feet of space,” Holter said.

He added that most companies are willing to work with the city. But on current zoning regulations, the city doesn’t really have any basis to require it.

“Whether it’s fiber optics, telecommunications or cell phone, if the infrastructure has to be installed in underground mode, the city keeps its visual aesthetics and avoids visual blocks and barriers to our vision triangle for traffic,” Holter said.

The concern for Marion and other municipalities, he said, is that as the technology continues to move more toward cellular operations, it will mean radio transmission will lessen in that equation.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• heard from Christian Pedersen, electrical supervisor, about hiring a fourth worker. Landon Baker entered into an apprenticeship program for electrical journeyman lineman certification. The cost to the city is $2,400, but it will pay dividends with a three-year commitment to cover the city’s investment.

• authorized Councilor John Wheeler to be an additional Kansas Power Pool alternative voting delegate.

• approved Ordinance 1411 regarding the sale and use of fireworks within the city limits. The ordinance would amend the code to allow fireworks be sold between July 1 and July 4.

On July 1-2, the time for selling and discharging are the same, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On July 3-4, the sale of fireworks and discharging are also at the same times of 9 a.m to midnight both days.

Heitschmidt said the ordinance is a beginning, and that perhaps neighbors can begin talking about some of the issues they have with one another.

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