Commissioners consulted on tower services

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners decided Monday to ask the planning commission for a recommendation on a proposed contract with Fox Engineering for regulation of cell towers.

The commissioners had said they would make a decision on the contract Monday, but after Andy Feeney, with AT&T objected, county officials decided to ask the planners to weigh in before making a final decision. The planners currently handle cell tower applications through the county’s current ordinance.

Meeting with the commission earlier, Brian Tregoning of Fox Engineering and Center for Municipal Solutions outlined his firm’s services, including drafting a proposed new cell tower ordinance for the county. Under the proposed process, an escrow account for $8,500 would be set up by the applicant. The firm bills at an hourly rate, which is taken from that account, with leftover funds returned to the developer, there is no charge to the county for the services, Tregoning said.

“We are opposed to this proposal. We think this is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. They are offering you free services, and I think you should always be concerned if someone is offering something for free. It would be costly to us to have this escrow and they want to manage our systems and tell us how to build, and I think our company knows how to do that. We don’t support this proposal. It doesn’t seem like you have issues now,” Feeney said.

“We need more information from both sides. I didn’t see a lot of negatives (with the proposal from Fox). It seems like a good idea,” said commission President Wayne Dunn.

“This would make it more complicated and you would have this firm writing the ordinance then enforcing it. It’s kind of like the fox watching the hen house,” Fenney said. “I think you need to bring in the other carriers as well, talk to them, and see if there is another solution.”

“The ordinance we are proposing is just the sum total of every ordinance that’s out there. We are currently in 34 states,” Tregoning. “There would be some limitations, but if a 240-foot tower is needed, it’s needed. We are here to prioritize with the county. We aren’t here to stop you from moving forward,” Tregoning told Feeney. “I think there’s an information gap there. I understand your point of view also, but we’re not here to be combative. I think the misnomer here is we are trying to clamp down and regulate and we are not.”

“We have had little success in enticing providers to come to our meetings with Belleville residents who are concerned about the lack of cell towers in their area. There are funds available at the state level for towers, but we have to come up with a carrier,” Commissioner Blair Couch said. “We had these meetings and invited everyone to come and you didn’t attend, but here you are today.”

“I don’t feel we need more regulations for the cell towers, it’s just creating another layer of bureaucracy. That’s what we have the planning commission for,” said Commissioner Steve Gainer. Gainer serves as the county’s liaison to the planning commission.

“They aren’t professionals,” Dunn said.

“We have an engineer on the planning commission,” Gainer countered. “We already have regulations and we enforce them. I just don’t think we need more bureaucracy.”

“Your current ordinance does lack a few things. We would set a standard and review the applications for you and submit the completed application to you for consideration, it would cut down on your administrative costs,” Tregoning said.

“We just want to make government more efficient and effective. I don’t see any indication your being an administrator won’t make the process better,” Dunn said.

Couch suggested asking for the planning commission’s recommendations. Tregoning and Fenney were invited to make presentations at the planners next meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m., June 5 in the Judge Black Courthouse Annex.