AP NEWS

City Council to consider 5G cell tower designs, approval of city budget

March 25, 2019

HUNTINGTON — Huntington City Council members on Monday night will discuss the second reading of an ordinance to adopt design standards for proposed AT&T 5G cell towers across the city.

AT&T’s 5G technology is coming to Huntington, making it the first city in the state to have the technology. Because the technology is strictly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, city council members will not have a say in where the towers are placed throughout the city.

Instead, council members will only have an option to develop and implement design standards for how the towers should look. They may ensure the towers support a particular look of a neighborhood. They may ensure the towers are not impeding traffic or pedestrians, obstructing the line of sight, and that they are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The towers also can’t be higher than 50 feet and need to be placed approximately 500 feet apart, which is the length of the average city block.

Assistant City Attorney Ericka Hernandez said the ordinance will allow the Planning and Zoning Commission to design standards for the “small-scale” cell phone towers before AT&T places 30 to 40 of them across the city. The towers are smaller than regular “microtowers” that some cell phone providers use, but need to be placed closer together than other towers.

The city must implement design standards by April 15, or the city loses the right to have any input on the designs.

Several council members expressed concern for the lack of say in the towers’ placement, but also said they would be concerned not to have a say in the towers’ designs.

The 5G technology is useful for first responders in high-density areas because if there is a disaster, first responders would have prioritized cell service.

Also during Monday’s meeting, council members will vote on a resolution approving the estimates for the general fund and coal severance fund budgets for fiscal year 2019-20. Council members held budget hearings this month to review the proposed budgets for the city’s various departments, division and projects. Mayor Steve Williams said the estimates include the largest budgets offered to the Police Department and Fire Department in the city’s history. There is also a proposal to create a Human Relations Commission, which would investigate and hold hearings on cases of alleged discrimination arising from the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

Council members will also vote on a second reading of an ordinance to approve a $1.6 million paving contract with the West Virginia Division of Highways.

The contract will include 33 roadways that were not paved during the fall 2018 season. The contract also adds 14 new roads identified by City Council members last month.

The contract will pay for the paving, striping and additional service fees to the state. Funds for the project were approved in the fiscal year 2018-19 budget. The contract will purchase paving for approximately 4.7 miles of roadway, said Jim Insco, public works director.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday inside City Council chambers. City Council will follow a work session and meeting of the Administration and Finance Committee, with begins at 6:30 p.m.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.