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Local News

January 8, 2014

Proposal made to add cell phone dishes to billboard

CORBIN — By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer

Monday’s London City Council meeting saw a proposal to add cell phone dishes to an existing billboard on HWY 192.

London Building Inspector Doug Gilbert, along with William Kendrick and Lynn Haney with Appalachian Wireless, came before the city council to see if it would be permissible for them to build six cell phone antennae and one microwave dish on an existing  billboard to improve cell phone signal in the area. Kendrick told the council that the billboard was an advertising device, not a broadcasting device, so it was not defined in existing ordinances.

An ordinance was passed in 1999 that forbade the building of any new billboards, but existing billboards in the London area were “grandfathered in,” according to Kendrick. Kendrick made it clear that they were simply adding cell phone antennae to an existing billboard. Council member Nancy Vaughn expressed concern that the antennae would be an eyesore, citing cell phone antennae she had seen near billboards in larger cities.

“All dishes are about two feet in diameter,” Kendrick assured her.

He went on to say that the addition wouldn’t expand the size of the sign and that the equipment wouldn’t compare in size to cell phone towers that could range in height from 25 feet to nearly 200 feet.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily bad,” City Attorney Larry Bryson said. He went on to say that research had shown that the billboard’s structure would support the addition, and that the addition was “a question of policy decision.”

“Do we want billboards used for this?” Bryson asked the council. He wasn’t sure if any other cities had attached cell phone antennae to billboards, and so he didn’t have a point of reference for legal precedence.

Council member Bobby Joe Parman asked Kendrick if this was a one-time deal or if they would want to put cell phone antennae on other billboards. Gilbert replied that this is a one-time thing. Parman then asked how much the billboard would be heightened by the addition and Gilbert replied that the height would increase by about six feet.

Vaughn continued to express her concern that one billboard with cell phone antennae would set the stage for more companies to put antennae on existing billboards.

“I don’t know if we’re that large yet,” Vaughn said. “We have a lot of billboards that others may want to put antennae on.”

Kendrick said he had contacted the state, and the state does allow cell phone towers on or within a certain distance of “state right of way.” Kendrick went on to say that the state routinely grants permits for cellular operations. He then addressed Vaughn, saying that the antennae were “the size of a pizza pan.”

Kendrick said existing towers surrounding the city’s shopping center along HWY 192 were at the back of the buildings, and in order for shoppers to get signal inside the buildings they needed cell phone towers in front of the buildings, which is what the billboard antennae would do. Council member Jim Hays said he had mixed feelings on the matter; billboards and cell phone antennae were eyesores, but he felt Appalachian Wireless was a good company with good cell phone service.

“This is a precedent we will set,” Hays said.

Vaughn suggested the billboard be an exception, and that the standing billboard ordinance not be changed.

“You don’t want to change the ordinance,” Bryson agreed.

“I understand the benefits, but we don’t want to open a can of worms,” Vaughn said. Bryson then said that he needed to “get together” with Bryson and Kendrick to draft a plan for the towers, and that it would take about a month. Mayor Troy Rudder asked if they could bring him a rendering of what the antennae would look like when the plan began coming together, to which Kendrick replied “yes.”

No motion was made on the antennae.

In other council news:

—Randy Brock with WYMC requested permission from the city council for a 5K run during the Grills Gone Wild Festival near the end of March.  Brock will donate the money generated from the event to Wounded Warriors.

“I think it (approving the 5K) is a good way to start the year,” Vaughn said. The 5K was unanimously approved.

—The date for a 5K run to benefit London’s Backpack Club was officially changed from April 12 to May  10. The idea was proposed by Jeff Shepherd with the Backpack Club, and he called the 5K the “Funky Chicken Mini-Marathon.” Shepherd wanted to change the date because London Police Cpl. Derek House had a problem with the original date conflicting with other events, and the London Police Department provides protection for many of the city’s events.

The motion for the date change was unanimously approved.

—Another marathon was proposed by Bill Douglas with Saint Joseph London. Douglas said one of the hospital’s nurses has breast cancer and could not work due to treatment. Other nurses wanted to do a fundraiser to help with household and medical expenses, and Douglas pitched a 5K to the council with a tentative date for March 22.

Rudder suggested the council give Douglas tentative approval, and a motion was passed to approve the 5K pending a meeting with House to discuss the date and plan the marathon’s route.

—Board appointments were approved for Susan Hodges to the London-Laurel County Joint Planning Commission, Danny Phelps to the London Utility Commission, and Jason Handy and Judd Weaver to City-County Industrial Development. An appointment for Robert Ocasio to the London-Corbin Airport Board is planned pending a discussion with him within the next week.

—A request by Barbra Causey with Fortress Properties, LLC was made to change the name of Nami Plaza, located at the end of HWY 192,  to Fortress Plaza. Parman asked Causey if her tenants were okay with this name change, and Causey replied that they were. Rudder then said that Bryson would have to present an ordinance to change the name of the street, and the council would wait until next month to see the ordinance.

—The city opened bids for the Whitley Branch Dec. 4 and approved a bid from HIll-Don of Burksvile for approximately $300,000 to begin work tearing up the intersection of HWY 1006 and Mill Street.  Whitley Branch is a creek in the city that has caused problems with flooding in the past, according to London Public Safety Director Rick Cochrane. The city began a project to widen the pipes running under the city from 24 inches to 48 inches in order to relieve the problem for good. Cochrane said they received a Hazard Mitigation Grant from FEMA for around $700,000 to widen the area’s drainage pipes after the city had already spent $1.7 million trying to fix the existing pipes.

The repairs will occur in two sites. Site one runs from West 11th Street to 7th Street, and the city is working on this site. Site two, for which the bid was approved Monday, runs from 7th Street to 2nd Street and will require a construction crew to grate the intersection of HWY 1006 and Mill Street. After these repairs, Cochrane said that the area would be “good to go for the next 25 years.”

—Sampson Branch, another flood hazard along 5th Street, was discussed in the council meeting. According to Cochrane, a drainage pipe collapsed and the ensuing flood collapsed two buildings. The owners of these buildings sued the city, and the city lost. The pipe has to be fixed, and the council voted to advertise for qualifications for engineers to begin work on this project.  Advertisements for qualifications will go into the Sentinel-Echo Friday.  Cochran will review the qualifications, and after qualifications are accepted, engineers will begin their work.

—A date was set for London’s annual Red, White and Boom. It will be Friday, July 4.

—Five London properties were approved to be rezoned from residential to commercial: 1864 North Mill Street, owned by James R. Johnson; 1869 and 1871 North Mill Street, owned by Bertie L. Sawyers; 1868 North Mill Street, owned by James C. Johnson and Sarah C. Johnson; and 1867 North Mill Street, owned by James R. Parsley and Mary Parsley.

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