Fairfield City Council hears from public about 5G concerns

FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield City Council meeting Monday night was attended by concerned residents who wanted to discuss possible 5G coverage in town.

The turn out was in response to the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would create guidelines for small cell facilities. The ordinance would regulate “sitting, construction, installation, collocation, modification, relocation, operation and removal of small cell wireless technology with the City’s rights of way.”

Mayor Ed Malloy said a resolution with these guidelines was passed in April. By creating an ordinance, residents would be able to express their opinions.

“When we first put that resolution in place, it was because all cities across the country faced a deadline to have some policy that could be referred to if a wireless company approached your community about putting in a new antenna system to support 5G. If you did not have it at that time, then you could not go backward and amend any laws to obstruct what it is that company intended to develop in the community,” he said.

He continued that as a government, they do not have the power to stop a development on a whole sale basis. No providers have reached out to the city in regard to installing small cells for the 5G technology.

The council hard from multiple opposed residents. All were concerned about radiation risks from the technology. Among them were Don Andrews, of Fairfield,

“There’s no research on the health or safety of 5G. This is all being pushed forward for money,” he said.

Andrews said the Iowa State Constitution is meant to protect citizens. By local government not having power to prevent 5G technology from coming to the city, he felt it was not doing it’s job.

City Attorney John Morrissey said in his opinion, the city does not have the right to tell technology companies they cannot set up networks in their town because of the commerce clause. The city can challenge the clause with zoning, but cannot prevent a company from trying to start a new business.

“However, we can do enough things in the process of limiting, regulating and so forth, that a company might not be particularly attracted to providing that service here,” he said.

The proposed ordinance would be the first step in that process. The first reading was approved unanimously by the council.

In other news, resident Shea Barber approached the council about offering his house for a controlled burn to be used for firefighter training. The home is located at 50 South Eighth Street.

Barber said all utilities had been shut off and all neighbors approved. Fire Chief and zoning officer Scott Vaughan said because the home was far enough away from other structures, he saw no issue with the burn.

“We want to take care of dilapidated houses in our town and the DNR allows us to do two of these burns a year. We can do that at no cost, rather than having to pay for the demolition of the property as a city,” he said.

The burn was approved and will take place mid to late October. Once demolished, Barber plants to redevelop on the lot.