County to regulate cell towers

Published 4:50 pm Friday, January 30, 2009

With cell phone companies steadily adding the range of services they provide to customers, Decatur County Commissioners have indicated they want to place more oversight on the approval of how and where new cell towers go up.

At their Tuesday, Jan. 27, meeting, county commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with the Georgia Center for Local Government for cell tower consultant services. The actual consulting firm will be Monroe Telecom Associates, LLC of Wake Forest, N.C., doing business as The Center for Municipal Solutions.

Currently, standards for the construction of cell towers is covered by the county’s subdivision ordinance and state and federal guidelines. The purpose of the agreement is to prepare a more specific cell tower ordinance. Once the ordinance is adopted, consultants would review applications for new cell towers, provide recommendations, inspect construction of facilities and recommend when and if certificates of compliance should be issued.

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“Under the ordinance, applications to co-locate [additional antennas] on an existing tower would be treated as a new tower,” said County Administrator Tom Patton. “Right now, I’m not sure that’s happening. There are 27 cell towers already in the county. We think [more regulation] is a good thing.”

David Dyer, a representative for the consulting firm, said review of future cell tower applications would not cost taxpayers anything. Instead, the consultants would be compensated through money set aside in an escrow fund paid into by companies requesting to put up new towers. The county government, which currently only charges cell tower construction companies a $200 application fee, will likely change its application fee—separate from the escrow fund amount—to reflect the cost incurred over the lifetime of the cell tower.

“Our goal is to make sure the rights of communities and citizens are respected and empower local officials to make informed decisions,” Dyer said.

Board appointments

After holding a closed session to discuss personnel matters, commissioners unanimously approved the following board appointments: Earl Perry and Russell Smith to the county’s Finance Committee, to be chaired by Perry; Palmer Rich to the E-911 Committee; Butch Mosely, to the Library Committee; and Dr. Charles Stafford to the RDC Committee. Chairman Rich also noted that Commissioner Gary Phillips represents Decatur County on the U.S. Highway 27 Association and on the board of directors for the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia’s Interlocal Risk Management Agency.

Other business

• Agreed, by unanimous vote, to cancel their regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 10, as county officials will be attending an Association of County Commissioners of Georgia conference in Atlanta.

Approved, by unanimous vote, renewal of an annual contract with Tinker & Associates of Peachtree City, Ga., for identification and appraisal of personal property for tax purposes.

Held a first public hearing on a proposed ordinance regulating nuisances in unincorporated Decatur County.