The Longboat Key Town Commission, for the most part, decided not to amend its highly-debated telecommunications ordinance at its Thursday, Sept. 24 regular workshop.
After another heated discussion between cell-phone-tower supporters and residents who oppose them, Vice Mayor Robert Siekmann urged the commission only to make one minor modification to the ordinance that will ban uncamouflaged towers.
“We already have an ordinance on the books,” Siekmann said. “We’re done.”
Town Attorney David Persson explained that the current ordinance, which was enacted in 1996, was created to restrict the construction of cell-phone towers.
Currently, cell-phone carriers can only submit an application to place towers on church property or a few town-owned parcels.
Longboat Key resident and cell-phone-carrier representative Jim Eatrides, on behalf of his own company, Alpha Omega Communications, urged the commission to amend the ordinance.
“We have a problem with cell-phone service on the north end,” Eatrides said. “Please don’t limit options so much that we don’t get a single application.”
But Commissioner Gene Jaleski and the majority of the commission decided against making changes to the ordinance.
“This is the second meeting in a row that not a single resident has come to tell us about how bad their cellular reception is on the island,” Jaleski said.
“We don’t want any cell towers,” Siekmann said. “Our cell service isn’t so bad we are desperate to solve the problem, or we would have solved the problem by now.”
The non-decision brings a more than two-year-old discussion to an end, which has included several staff recommended revisions that were ignored in favor of more discussion by the commission.
An amended ordinance, which almost made its way to a second reading and adoption earlier this year, was rejected after 35 residents came in May to Town Hall to voice displeasure with the changes.
Those residents worried a revised ordinance would make it easier for cellular companies to install cell-phone towers closer to their homes.
The commission, meanwhile, still hopes that companies with viable cell-phone-reception alternatives, who can attract carriers, will come forward with plans.
But not every commissioner was happy with the decision.
“I still think we have lousy (cell phone) service on this island,” Commissioner Jim Brown said. “We need to stop hiding from this thing and get something that works.”
If the town and the union cannot agree on a contract, one side would declare an impasse, at which time a special magistrate would review both proposals and make a decision that’s not legally binding, essentially bringing both sides back to the table for future negotiations.
The fire department’s current contract expired May 31, which means the department continues to operate on the status quo on a month-to-month basis until a new contract is reached.
In the town’s current contract, a Longboat Key firefighter paramedic’s top salary is $76,643, and the entry-level salary is $51,309.
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- I think disguised cell towers would very soon fade into the landscape. Like so many issues, once they go forward they soon become non-issues. I am definitely in favor of creating more opportunities for towers
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