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Lamar has 12 cell towers and officials want them utilized before new ones are permitted

By Kay S. Pedrotti Do you take for granted your ability to make cell phone calls in Barnesville and Lamar County? Think about what makes that happen and you may want to thank your local governing bodies. There are 12 cell towers here, three in the city and nine in the county, all serving multiple providers with Verizon coverage being predominant. Company officials have told local 911 dispatchers, who may get calls about tower lights not burning, that their network is mapped and computerized to enable them to locate lights-out immediately anywhere in the world. Barnesville’s three towers are at the end of Atlanta Street near the service station at the fourlane, on the old Carter’s Mill building on Carleeta Street and atop a building in the Gordon State College instructional complex near Stafford Avenue. City manager Kenny Roberts said city ordinances controlling cell tower location are meant to encourage providers to colocate on existing towers, to minimize the number of towers in the city and their impact on surrounding properties and provide increasingly better communications for the citizens. Local authorities now are the agencies which give final approval to tower-building or antenna placement, Roberts said, but ‘there can be efforts from time to time to take that control out of local hands, which is not a good idea.’ The codes about Lamar County’s rules and regulations for its nine towers and antennae, and future structures, follow the basic pattern of those in Barnesville. Zoning administrator Dan Gunter said the county locations are on High Falls Park Road, two on Johnstonville Road, Cauthen Road, High Falls Road, Burnette Road, Morgan Dairy Road and two on Highway 36 east. Two other locations have been approved but the structures have never been built. An application for locating a tower or placing another communication device on an existing structure comes first to Gunter’s office then is considered by the planning commission. All requirements, such as security provisions, height limitations, paint colors, green buffers and distances between towers are studied by Gunter and the board and a recommendation for approval or denial made to the county commission. If the applicant disagrees with the county’s decision, the applicant may go to the zoning board of appeals. City regulations are similar but have no references to quarter- mile and 2.5-mile distances between towers. In the city, towers are allowed only in industrial or commercial-4 zoning districts. City council approval is required for placement, after the manager and boards determine if all requirements have been met, Roberts said. Council also must approve installation of antenna placement in other zoning districts and use of alternative tower structures ‘“ manmade trees, light poles, clock towers, bell steeples or other alternative-design structures ‘“ in the approved I and C-4 districts. Each tower, city or county, must be placed at a distance equal to its height away from any residential structure. All towers are required to have anti-climbing devices and be surrounded by fences at least six feet high. There are currently no applications for new towers pending. Both county and city have been successful in encouraging multiple use of existing towers. Both bodies have incorporated compliance with all regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission in the codes. Some people will always think of cell towers as unattractive, even though the regulations specify their color be flat gray or ‘sky blue.’ Maybe that’s why we take them for granted.

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