Bill

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - LO­CAL NEWS -

any ac­ci­dent that could oc­cur,” Her­bert said.

“If House Bill 2564 were to be en­acted, lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and tax­pay­ers would have no in­put over the lo­ca­tions, heights, place­ments, de­signs, or con­struc­tion of these wire­less de­vices,” he said.

Lansdale cur­rently owns and op­er­ates roughly 2,400 tele­phone poles, and the town’s cur­rent wire­less or­di­nance passed in July charges car­ri­ers a fee of $350 per de­vice per pole per year for in­stalling a wire­less fa­cil­ity such as an an­tenna on those poles.

“If a de­ice was placed on ev­ery fifth pole, our in­fra­struc­ture would re­turn over $150,000 a year, that could be used to re­pair roads, up­grade in­fra­struc­ture or off­set taxes,” Her­bert said.

“Un­der House Bill 2564, that in­come would be more than halved, to around $44,000 per year,” he said, and the bill would make towns re­spon­si­ble for the costs of any le­gal ac­tion.

Sorg said, in ad­di­tion to the dol­lars and cents, the bill would re­move the tools towns have now to en­sure uni­form looks in cer­tain ar­eas.

“I see Lansdale work­ing hard to make their down­town beau­ti­ful. So has Am­bler, and we went to keep that mov­ing for­ward,” she said.

“We care about our cit­i­zens, our home­own­ers, and our lo­cal down­town busi­nesses, and this takes away our abil­ity to make sure that these peo­ple have what they ex­pect from our com­mu­ni­ties,” Sorg said.

Lansdale’s coun­cil voted unan­i­mously in Septem­ber to for­mally voice their op­po­si­tion, and Her­bert and Sorg signed a let­ter of op­po­si­tion Thurs­day on be­half of their bor­oughs. Sorg and Her­bert said that let­ter will be signed by about a dozen other lo­cal may­ors or man­agers, then will be sent to each mem­ber of the state house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ Con­sumer Af­fairs com­mit­tee, where the bill now sits, along with the Gover­nor’s of­fice.

“The money that went into the creation of that in­fra­struc­ture was tax­payer dol­lars. So why should the tele­com com­pa­nies be able to com­man­deer that for their own pur­poses?” Her­bert said.

Her­bert and Sorg both said the bill doesn’t ad­dress the one prob­lem they see with wire­less util­i­ties in states, a lack of ac­cess for more re­mote com­mu­ni­ties, but would give large com­pa­nies added pow­ers at tax­payer ex­pense.

“It’s im­por­tant, be­cause they’re us­ing a pub­lic util­ity, and the tax­pay­ers should get a ben­e­fit from the use of their util­i­ties,” Sorg said.

The bill also does not pro­tect mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from li­a­bil­i­ties from ac­ci­dents cre­ated by a wire­less ob­ject in a right-of-way, and could leave the towns open to large li­a­bil­ity costs.

“I don’t know many pri­vate com­pa­nies that get to charge the tax­pay­ers for their in­sur­ance,” Sorg said.

David Woglom, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Penn­syl­va­nia Mu­nic­i­pal Elec­tric As­so­ci­a­tion, said he op­posed the bill on be­half of the ad­vo­cacy group that rep­re­sents towns across the state with their own elec­tric com­pa­nies.

“Po­ten­tially, this bill af­fects all 35 of our mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in a ma­jor way. It’s just go­ing to have a ma­jor, neg­a­tive af­fect on all of our mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” Woglom said.

Hat­field Bor­ough Man­ager Mike DeFi­nis said his coun­cil has al­ready sent a let­ter to state Rep. Bob God­shall, R-53rd Dis­trict, voic­ing their op­po­si­tion to the bill, and Quak­er­town Bor­ough Man­ager and Po­lice Chief Scott McEl­ree said that town is cur­rently en­gaged in lit­i­ga­tion with Ver­i­zon over fees for pole con­nec­tions.

Harold Stone, Perkasie Bor­ough’s Elec­tric Su­per­in­ten­dent, said that town re­cently re­ceived an ap­pli­ca­tion for a 120-foot-tall cell tower that would have been placed in a pub­lic right-ofway, and could be al­lowed with lit­tle pub­lic in­put if HB 2564 is passed.

“When they sent us a copy of what it would look like next to a tree, the tree dwarfed the tower. We don’t have any 120-foot-tall trees — we have 75 or 80 foot tall trees, but we don’t have any 120-foot trees,” Stone said.

DAN SOKIL — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Lo­cal of­fi­cials gather to en­dorse a let­ter to state law­mak­ers op­pos­ing House Bill 2564, which would limit lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties’ abil­ity to reg­u­late wire­less telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties. From left to right are Lansdale Elec­tric Fore­man Joe Green; Hat­field Bor­ough Man­ager Mike DeFi­nis; Lansdale Elec­tric Su­per­in­ten­dent Andy Krauss; Hat­field Bor­ough As­sis­tant Man­ager Jaime Sny­der; David Woglom, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of PMEA; Am­bler Mayor Jeanne Sorg; Lansdale Bor­ough Man­ager John Ernst; Lansdale Mayor Garry Her­bert; Lansdale Po­lice Chief Mike Trail; Quak­er­town Bor­ough Man­ager and Po­lice Chief Scott McEl­ree; and Perkasie Elec­tric Su­per­in­ten­dent Harold Stone.

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