Cell tower request tabled

Published 6:12 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

Citizen concern about a proposed telecommunications tower’s construction split county commissioners’ opinions at their Tuesday meeting.

Commissioners had two requests from TCD Services of Atlanta, Ga., to build new telecommunications towers on behalf of AT&T, which is in the process of expanding its wireless phone service into Decatur County.

While commissioners unanimously approved a request for a new 180-foot tower off Spring Creek Road, they tabled a request for a new tower off Newton Road in a 3-2 vote until their regular meeting on Oct. 28.

Commissioners Butch Mosely, Bill Nichols and Gary Phillips voted in favor of tabling the request, while Commissioners Earl Perry and Glenda Battle voted against tabling it.

Mosely made a motion to table the request to allow for a possible compromise between TCD Services and nearby residents subdivision regarding the tower’s location. TCD Services had proposed constructing the tower on leased area of a 48.5-acre property owned by John T. Reynolds Jr. at 1555 Newton Road (Georgia 253 North).

Citizen Julie Pope said she and other people who live near the proposed tower site opposed it due to concerns of proposal microwave radiation emitted by the tower could possibly be hazardous to human health.

Lane Wright, a representative for TCD Services, said he was not aware of any conclusive evidence about how telecommunication towers might affect human health. Wright said the tower’s microwave radiation would be “well below” the maximum limit set by the federal government. While admitting he was not an expert, he said people are already in close proximity to microwave-emitting devices such as cell phones, microwave ovens, heating pads and electric razors.

Discussion of tower’s location

Pope contended Reynolds’ property was large enough to move the tower farther away from nearby residences, which prompted Mosely’s suggestion that a compromise be worked out.

Wright said TCD Services had arrived at the tower’s location based on the desired area of cellular signal transmission. He said more than $10,000 had already been spent on engineering studies and legal documents related to the tower’s construction.

In a memo regarding the request, County Planning Official Paul Soudi wrote there were three residential structures developed on Reynolds’ property. However, none are “located within the 300-foot radius of the location of the proposed tower plus the required setback from any adjoining residential structures.”

Perry said the proper place for any objections to be voiced was before the Planning Board, which had recommended approval. Since the proposed tower site had met the county’s regulations, Perry said he believed commissioners must approve the request.

Mosely declined Perry’s request that he withdraw his motion, but said he believed it was citizens’ responsibility to read notices of county government meeting agendas advertised in the media.

Public Defender’s Office hired for State Court defense

Also on Tuesday, commissioners approved, by unanimous vote, a proposal presented by State Court Judge George Floyd for the office of Public Defender Ernie Sheffield to take over indigent defense for State Court.

Floyd explained the move was necessary due to the death of Bill Shingler of Donalsonville, the attorney who had previously been contracted to provide indigent defense services. Judge Floyd said the Public Defender’s Office had already filled in on an emergency basis after Shingler’s death and in Floyd’s opinion, was well qualified.

Per the agreement, Decatur County will pay $19,000 per year to the Public Defender’s Office. Indigent defense is provided to persons who are charged with crimes and cannot afford an attorney.

Other business

In other business, county commissioners:

• Approved, in separate unanimous votes, a request from Robert & Marla Ames to subdivide 6.64 acres located near the intersection of Hidden Springs Road and Covey Rise, and a request from TCD Services of Atlanta to build a 180-foot tower near the intersection of Spring Creek Road and Pineywoods Drive. The Ames’ request came before commissioners because it required approval of a variance from the minimum frontage required for flag lots, according to Soudi.

• Approved, by unanimous vote, a Wellhead Protection Ordinance. The ordinance sets up wellhead protection zones for all wells and springs, which supply water for Decatur County and regulates property uses and conditions that may be maintained within the zones.

• Heard from Richard Stalvey, a partner in the accounting firm, Fowler Holley, Rambo & Stavely of Valdosta, Ga., regarding the audit of the county’s finances for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007. Stalvey gave positive comments regarding the county’s financial health and said there were no major deficiencies with its financial procedures.

• Approved, by unanimous vote, a resolution authorizing the purchase of a new motor grader. County Administrator Tom Patton said such resolutions are now required by finance institutions for local governments’ capital purchases.

Brennan Leathers can be reached by e-mail at brennan.leathers@thepostsearchlight.com, or by telephone at (229) 246-2827, Ext. 115.