Supervisors hold off approval of second reading of amendment regarding communications tower near New Albin, approve agreements for new tower with Interstate Power and Light

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, August 6 to address a full agenda of items, including the consideration of signing a Site Lease Agreement and Tower Lease Agreement with Interstate Power and Light Company, the Second Reading of Amendment 3 to Zoning Ordinance L pertaining to exceptions to towers located in the Bluffland Protection District setback area, and discussion of the Continuation of Operation Plan (COOP) relating to disaster planning and County offices.

During Public Comment, Maynard Johnson of Lansing briefly discussed white lines painted on County roads, which the Supervisors agreed to add to the August 13 meeting agenda. George Blair, a New Albin City Council member, discussed the proposed tower near New Albin for FirstNet, the First Responders Network, a nationwide interoperable network for fire, police and emergency personnel with a proposed location within the quarter-mile setback of the Bluffland Protection District. Blair advised of a recent Board of Adjustment meeting in which Attorney Judd Genda of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association (WSTA) provided information.

Phillip Hammell of New Albin questioned why the Bluffland Protection District was being infringed upon, whether this was a public project and whether the County Attorney and Zoning Administrator were taking the side of AT&T. Hammell indicated that the County should be fighting harder for the Bluffland Protection District and that “we seem to be throwing away this natural resource.”

Director Sam Hudson of the North Iowa Juvenile Detention Center introduced himself to the Board of Supervisors and discussed the services offered by the organization. Hudson indicated that the North Iowa Juvenile Detention Center not only provides services for juveniles, but also provides transportation and serves as an adult crisis stabilization center.

Hudson discussed continued work with Medicaid and Managed Care Organizations (MCO), with only one MCO remaining not yet under contract with the North Iowa Juvenile Detention Center. Hudson indicated that he will be visiting Veterans Memorial Hospital and the Allamakee County Public Safety Center later in the day.

Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker discussed the Continuation of Operation Plan (COOP), which he recommended should be updated for the County. Snitker indicated that the Allamakee County Courthouse, Engineer’s Office, Public Safety Center and all other County offices should be included in case of tornado or other disaster requiring alternate sites. Snitker discussed that internet access, phone support, agreements and contracts should be included in the plan. The Supervisors agreed that Snitker should move forward with this project, which will be discussed further at the next Department Head meeting.

The Supervisors moved into the Second Reading of Amendment 3 to Zoning Ordinance L - exceptions to towers located in the Bluffland Protection District setback area. This matter pertains to the proposed communications tower for the FirstNet First Responders Network, which has been discussed at previous Board of Supervisors meetings. Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Tom Blake discussed that the application submitted to the Board of Adjustment is currently being reviewed for this project with the Zoning Administrator’s office determining that this is a governmental and public project, and as such there is an exception under the current Bluffland Protection District regulations allowing towers greater than 35 feet in height to be placed within the one-quarter mile setback area for governmental public projects, public utilities and fencing.

Karen Pratte of Waterville discussed the two opinions related to this issue, which include that this is either simply a clarification - and if so, is redundant - or this is a significant change, where the intent was never to open this area to large structures.

Hammell then discussed his experience managing a launch control center (LCC) and working with communication towers using high frequency data bursts similar to 5G while in the military. Hammell indicated that public projects should not be exempt with the County’s ordinance’s intent to protect bluffs up and down the river.

Hammell disputed the results of an appraisal of his property produced by Northeast Iowa Telephone Company (NEIT) that determined property values were not harmed by communication towers, citing that the study was based on subdivisions near urban areas in Iowa with higher property values and not representative of a bluffland protected area.

Blake indicated that under the existing ordinance, this project is exempt as a governmental and public project and that Allamakee County Attorney Jill Kistler recommended the amendment would be wise as a clarification. The Supervisors decided that due to the level of public concern on this matter, no action would be taken on the Second Reading of Amendment 3 to Zoning Ordinance L and that the Third Reading date and time would not be set at this time.

City of Lansing Chief of Police Conrad Rosendahl discussed the next agenda item involving the signing of a grant application for Medical Examiners. Rosendahl advised that Dr. David Schwartz is the Allamakee County Medical Examiner and that there is a need for additional trained medical examiners. He advised that a class in St. Louis, MO costing $850 per person, not including room and board, is available. Rosendahl further advised of a grant that may be available again later in the year to help offset this cost of approximately $2,000 per person with hotel expenses. The Supervisors approved Rosendahl to apply for grants related to the medical examiner training.

The Public Hearing considering Allamakee County entering into a Site Lease Agreement and Tower Lease Agreement with Interstate Power and Light Company was opened. Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour discussed that the 38-year-old current tower located on the County farm is at capacity and that Alliant Energy has requested additional equipment be placed on the tower. Alliant Energy has proposed to construct a 250-foot tower, which will be of mutual benefit at the County farm.

Dan Stelpflug discussed that this project will be a win-win situation for both the County and Alliant Energy. Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick discussed some changes regarding Veterans Memorial Hospital’s paging protocol which may require an additional antennae to be installed and that this will be a good opportunity for the County to move to a 40- to 60-year structure without putting the expense on taxpayers.

Blake advised that Alliant has completed the application process and permitting required of this project. Ridenour provided a recommendation for both agreements to be signed. The public hearing was closed and the Supervisors approved the signing of the Site Lease Agreement and Tower Lease Agreement with Interstate Power and Light.

The Supervisors moved into the consideration of bids for A26 (Iowa River Drive) bridge replacement. Ridenour discussed that bids were accepted by the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) through July 17. Ridenour provided copies of the bid summary to the Supervisors and discussed that Brennan Construction was the low bidder at $726,592.46. Ridenour recommended the low bid, which was then approved by the Supervisors.

Mellick discussed moving Brianna Berger to part-time as-needed status for a Dispatch position at the Public Safety Center. Mellick indicated that Berger’s pay rate will be $15.33 per hour. The Supervisors approved the move to part-time as-needed status at the $15.33 per hour pay rate.
Manure Management Plan Updates were reviewed and approved with a single motion for Wayne and Shelly Weber Farm, Millerway, Longview Ridge and Gruber Ridge.

Under Department Head Updates, Snitker discussed preparation for Lansing Fish Days and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Bicycle Ride, which starts in La Crosse, WI and travels into Allamakee County Saturday, August 11. Snitker also discussed the Alert Iowa statewide emergency notification system.
Mellick discussed Lansing Fish Days, the Driftless Half Marathon and mental health committals.

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