Cell agreement towers over aldermen, residents

Cell agreement towers over aldermen, residents

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

The mayor stunned residents and aldermen after they learned he put his “Doug Scott” on an agreement allowing the Minneapolis-based cell tower company, Vertical Partners, to identify, assess and market sites for wireless telecommunications facilities.

Such agreements usually require a full vote of the City Council.

People who fear radio-frequency-generated health problems from the towers crowded City Hall on July 9. They attended a City Council meeting and a neighborhood meeting afterward with many aldermen in attendance. Scott was absent from the later meeting. John Strandin, the city’s communications officer, said Scott had an unspecified appointment but was supposed to be back in council chambers.

At a June City Council meeting, aldermen approved what they believe were starting negotiations with Vertical Partners. Following the approval, Scott signed the agreement. Aldermen never even saw the agreement until Mark and Cecilia Dahlgren, outspoken opponents of the cell towers, brought it to their attention the week preceding the July 9 meeting.

The Dahlgrens contacted aldermen after they obtained the agreement and other information on cell towers from the city when they used the Freedom of Information Act.

The contract states the sites would automatically become acceptable after 30 days if the city failed to respond to the list, which would have expired Thursday, July 12. On July 9, Vertical Partners gave the city an additional 30 days from July 12.

Aldermen are upset they weren’t aware of the approval. “I voted last month to take and start negotiations with Vertical Partners,” said David Johnson (R-4), who with Alderman Doug Mark made the motion to quash any period of time the city would have to respond to the list.

However, Vertical Partners has now indicated it will allow the city to have 120 days from the July 12 date.

That will be considered at the July 23 Finance and Personnel Committee meeting and then move on to council. Strandin said it’s unlikely the committee would consider expunging any time limit as the aldermen suggested because the 120 days will stretch all the way to Nov. 12.

Also, city administrators devised a new list, narrowing the original 12 sites to six, including a new site. The city considered the sites from the input received at the neighborhood meeting, as well as the aldermen’s input.

Sites that received heavy opposition were those at Newburg and Alpine, as well as Trainer Road. “I think that’s because they are in residential areas,” Strandin said. “The new list—none of these are in residential areas.”

The locations now are: City Well #28-Beltline and Airport Road; City Well #34-4000 Dawes Road (Southrock); City Well #40-820 N. Lyford Road; Water Division-1111 Cedar Street; city yards-500 S. Independence; and City Well #44-Owen Center/Elmwood Road (county).

All of the sites are in commercial or industrial areas, except for the one at City Well #44, which is on farmland. City Well #44 is the other five site. The city has until Nov. 12 to reject the all sites.

All sites must be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Codes and Regulations Committee and the City Council.

Because of this, Scott asserted that his signature on the agreement doesn’t automatically give Vertical Partners authority.

City Attorney Ron Schultz added that no financial risk is involved. “We can walk away from this,” he noted.

Alderman Daniel Conness (D-14) defended Scott, saying that it’s never been brought up that the council must see agreements in writing.

That’s “because we’ve always had it [any contract] in front of us,” Johnson asserted.

Mark Dahlgren pointed out that the city lacks an ordinance designed specifically for cell towers of any kind. “We will now have to watch every move around here like a hawk,” he said.

Conness tried to assure people that the city has done nothing underhanded.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!