The list of Missouri communities standing together in opposition to proposed wireless communication legislation continues to grow.
Local government officials from the cities of Gladstone, Kansas City, Cape Girardeau, Fulton, Hazelwood, Blue Springs, Trenton, Houston and Willow Springs traveled to Jefferson City recently to testify against wireless legislation they say could harm Missouri communities.
The city of Osage Beach was among the first in the state to raise a red flag at the end of the 2013 Legislative session about legislation that city officials said would take away a city's authority to regulate wireless towers within the community. The bill ultimately was found to be unconstitutional because of a problem with its title. However, the bill was reintroduced this year and is working its way through the legislature.
According to the Missouri Municipal League, SB 650 "diminishes and undermines municipalities' responsibility for land use and zoning regulations, causing a negative impact on the character of communities across the state. The bill allows a cell phone provider to replace or upgrade equipment used to provide wireless telecommunications services on or in existing structures with no local government zoning review or even a public hearing."
The bill also would allow wireless equipment to collocate on existing facilities — again, without any oversight allowed from local officials or residents. The placement of structures could include towers, buildings, water towers or even homes, according to the MML.
Osage Beach City Attorney Ed Rucker has led the charge on behalf of the city, crafting a letter to State Rep. Rocky Miller (District 124) that outlines the city's specific issues. He also testified on behalf of the MML in opposition to the legislation.
Alderman John Olivarri reported to the board at its meeting Feb. 6 that he recently attended senate and house subcommittee meetings on the proposed legislation.
"I'm not sure we have our representatives' and senators' attention on the issue," he said.
He noted that Osage Beach and other communities have sent letters to their respective legislators and committee members to restate the issue.
"We're still trying to get our point across," he said, again offering to meet with legislators about the issue. "It seems like (telecommunications) providers like AT&T have done a better job getting their message across than we have."
Alderman Kevin Rucker said if the legislation is passed and signed by Governor Nixon, cities might have to regroup next year and ask that the legislation be fixed.
Olivarri said even though changes have been proposed, "we don't seem to be heard. Why are the telecommunications people being heard over cities?"
Mike Welty, a staff accountant with the treasurer's office, gave a detailed review of how the city's property was recently reappraised.
Page 2 of 2 - He received a 300-page document that detailed the process of re-valuing the city's buildings and property of $20,000 or more.
"We didn't accept the information on face value," he said. "We did our own research. At the end of the day, we're better insured now."
The process included using an independent appraisal firm (American Appraisal) to review each of the city's buildings and contents. Welty was accompanied by Public Works Director Nick Edelman and city staffer Loyd Dunham. After the data was returned from the appraisal firm, Welty created a spreadsheet so the results could be analyzed. After some changes to the information, a working spreadsheet was completed.
Areas revalued were: City Hall, the water towers, lift stations, Lee C. Fine Airport, public works buildings and other incidentals.
"This was the first time we've had an independent company do the appraisal," Welty explained. "This is the first time since 2004 we've been through the process."
The revaluation is part of the city's partnership with its insurance carrier, Midwest Public Risk, and will be conducted again in five years.
Mayor Penny Lyons said staff will use the information to upgrade its insurance policy to make sure the city is not underinsured, and will report to the board about any changes in the city's premium.
•An open house/silent auction will be held this spring at the former location of Dragon House restaurant near the Grand Glaize Airport for people who want to buy any salvage from the building. The city bought the building (with help from a MoDOT grant) because the building was within the Runway Protection Zone. The building will eventually be torn down.
•APAC was low bidder on reconstruction of the Key Largo intersection on the west end of Osage Beach. Work should begin this spring, with completion by Memorial Day.
•Alderman Steve Kahrs questioned the decision by Charter Communications that will require its customers to rent High Definition boxes effective Feb. 25. He said residents of Kansas City and St. Louis get better service and better channels for less money. "This is going to cost our residents a lot of money," he said.