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.
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.