City adopts new policy for wireless equipment
BEMIDJI--With cell phone data use continuing to rise, additional equipment from providers to boost capabilities are becoming more commonplace. Because the equipment is added to existing infrastructure, though, local government units and private e...
BEMIDJI-With cell phone data use continuing to rise, additional equipment from providers to boost capabilities are becoming more commonplace.
Because the equipment is added to existing infrastructure, though, local government units and private entities are adding rules to where the antennas can be placed.
On Monday, the Bemidji City Council followed suit by approving its own policy related to small cell wireless equipment. According to the National League of Cities, small cell technology is usually mounted to existing structures, ranging from rooftops to utility poles. Once operational, they can help expand coverage areas and increase capacity in high data demand areas.
In January, the Federal Communications Commission ordered the deployment of small wireless facilities. In the order, the FCC preempts local laws, but aesthetic requirements by local governments are allowed.
In the policy approved Monday, aesthetic rules in Bemidji for the equipment include:
• All equipment on street lights and poles must be reviewed and approved by the Public Works Department prior to installation.
• All plans for proposed fixtures must be signed by a professional civil engineer.
• Equipment fixtures must be uniform and consistent in both color and appearance to the city property its attached to.
• The city will not allow equipment on decorative street lights.
• No company signage is permitted.
• The equipment must be a minimum of 10 feet from the sidewalk elevation.
"Once they're in place, we can modify this as time goes on," City Attorney Al Felix said. "You're going to want to modify it based on experience. I anticipate it's not going to be a situation with this technology going up all over the place. It's going to be very localized for specific needs."
According to Felix, state agencies and private utility companies are responsible for creating their own policies.
Another agenda item before the council Monday was a brief look at expense and revenue possibilities to consider in 2020. In a report from City Finance Director Ron Eischens, several expenses to consider in the future for Bemidji are related to personnel.
Eischens said new expenses in the future could stem from a new street department employee, an additional police officer and the creation of a facilities position. Additionally, the city will be adding a community development director in the near future.
The director will coordinate development with the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board, other government units and local organizations. The director position will also oversee the planning and building departments. Salary ranges for the position given during a January council meeting were $81,601 to $103,700.
Eischens said the council should also consider the impact on expenses because of water well work. This year, the city is taking on a $2.15 million project to add an additional water well. The city uses two water wells now, with others having been shut down in response to the levels of perfluorocarbons, or PFCs.
The PFCs were formerly found in firefighting foams which were used by the Fire Department at the Bemidji Regional Airport during training. The airport is located west of the city's wells.
On the revenue side, Eischens said the city is requesting $2 million from the state to assist in covering the water well costs. Eischens also said he's tracking the possibility of any local government aid increases. If the local government aid program for cities was returned to its 2002 level, Eischens said the city could receive an additional $471,000.
Another work session is scheduled for June to revisit 2020 financial expectations.