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Gillsville hoping to get ahead of cellphone companies seeking to install technology on public property
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Gillsville City Councilman Roy Turpin - photo by Scott Rogers

Gillsville is trying to get ahead of wireless providers moving more toward putting small cell antennas on power poles in public rights of way instead of building cell towers.

“To be consistent in their dealing with the various providers, the best practice is to have an ordinance in place to say this is how we’re going to treat everybody,” city attorney David Syfan said.

The city might run up against a bill in the Georgia General Assembly that would take away cities’ control of rights of way when dealing with telecommunication providers, he said.

“It may be the city will pass this ordinance, but we’ll have to take another look at it if this (bill) passes,” Syfan said.

Gillsville is set to consider an ordinance that seeks to “regulate the public right of way in the public interest” at its meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6.

Gillsville City Council

What: Ordinance regulating rights of way in other public places in the city

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6

Where: Gillsville City Park Building, 7864 County Line Road

The small city on the Hall-Banks county border is considering the ordinance at the recommendation of the Georgia Municipal Association.

“Rights of way are a limited resource and cities are, and should remain, responsible for making sure they are properly and consistently maintained to preserve community aesthetics and to ensure public safety,” the GMA states on its website.

The page refers to House Bill 533, or the 5G Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development Act, which “would give unregulated access and special privileges to those seeking to put wireless service facilities or new poles in the public rights of way,” according to the GMA.

The city hasn’t gotten any requests from companies seeking to install such devices.

“You have to have a certain population,” Syfan said. “That’s one of the drivers (of the practice), but the other big driver of it is gaps in coverage. I’m not sure the population of Gillsville will drive the antenna placement, but gaps in coverage might.”

Gillsville Mayor Roy Turpin said he has heard companies might use existing utility poles but also put up new poles if the bill passes.

“We just want to stay ahead (of the issue) and … make sure we’re up to date and can regulate what (providers) do,” he said. “... I hope we get that chance. What I’m reading from GMA is we may not get that chance.”

Turpin said the city has had the ordinance in hand for a while.

“We just kind of let it lay to the wayside,” he said. “When I took over in January (as mayor), this was on one of my priorities to get this passed and on the books.”

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