911 Needs a Rescue

26 Sep

On a night like tonight, with severe thunderstorm warnings across the county, it is good to be signed up for county Code Red alerts. This service will call or text you when weather or other emergencies take place in your area (these alerts are localized, too, not just countywide). This service is one that Jefferson County 911 is touting in its half-page ad in last week’s Leader, in order to assure us that they are spending the revenue from their new sales tax in an appropriate manner.

Speaking of JeffCo 911, they are running into a bit of opposition in their quest to update the system by erecting 18 towers ranging in height from 175-500 meters throughout the county (note, I can find no map of the proposed sites, so let me know if you can access one). So far, one tower has been denied (and one tabled) by the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Adjustment. In Arnold, the city planning commission denied approval of the tower to be built there (the city council can override that decision), and in Barnhart, an organized movement is afoot to stop the tower planned there. This tower was to be decided on August 23, but I don’t know the result of that meeting (A video may appear right below this sentence; if not, click the link to see it).

Why the opposition? This statement sums it up well: “Residents don’t dispute the purpose of the tower just the location.” In other words: Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)! In Dittmer, it was “aesthetic and safety reasons.” In Barnhart, they are very blatant: “Let’s find really great spots that are not going to destroy beautiful views that we’ve enjoyed here for so long,” [protest leader Ann Moloney] says.” In Arnold, 18 residents said “they feared it would be dangerous in powerful tornadoes, reduce property values and expose them to cancer-causing radiation.”

I am generally unswayed by appeals to property values (property rights are another story). I don’t think property values should trump other rights or, in this case, community needs. Most of the time, the effect of an action on property values is completely unknown and unsubstantiated. If a prospective buyer of my home can see a tower off in the distance, will that really cause them to pay less for my home? “Property values” is often a catch-all facade that really means “I just don’t want that near me.” Some tower opponents are more blatant about this, while others produce other objections to obscure the blatantness of their aesthetic concerns.

A couple of objections brought up in Arnold should be highlighted. Councilwoman Michelle Hohmeier raised a federalism concern, which was shot down:

“Sometimes you have to make a stand. They don’t have the authority to tell us what to do,” she said.

[City Administrator] Shockey said if the city does not comply with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) they would lose their radio license and would be unable to use any kind of radio service. Williams said the time to opt out of the system was in 1992 when the dispatch service was first organized.

I appreciate her desire to restrict government, but this is really not the place to “make a stand.”

Also, a resident said that if the tower were to fall, it might hit a buried gas pipeline, causing an explosion. I’m not sure how the tower would hit a buried pipe. Centerpoint Energy, which owns the pipeline, said (bottom of page 3) “we should not be used as a reason for denial of the tower.” The city council will vote on this tower in late October.

A denial of one or several towers would require the county to come up with new locations, which would acquire additional time and expense, and will also give rise to a new set of residents saying, “not in my backyard!”

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One Response to “911 Needs a Rescue”

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  1. Starting over on the 911 tower in Arnold « Jefferson County Penknife - December 8, 2012

    […] effort in the county to place new 911 towers, including one to be placed in Arnold that ran into strong opposition. Well, that Arnold tower project will have to begin again. According to the […]

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