By giving the city manager authority to execute agreements with telecommunication companies for small cell wireless attachments, Independence's City Council hopes to stem what been a tide last year of suddenly constructed wireless monopoles in public rights-of-way.

The city code amendment passed last month is meant to encourage the telecom providers to take advantage of existing infrastructure and use small cell attachments instead of the free-standing monopoles. Several area telecom providers had been asking the city permission to attach such small cells on utility and streetlight poles, to supplement the traditional antennas on cell towers in providing high-speed wireless services.

Two much-maligned monopoles – in front of Drumm Farm on Lee's Summit Road and near Cracker Barrel at Lee's Summit Road and Interstate 70 – have been taken down in recent months. They and many others had sprung up as the city grappled to find any state-legal measures of control.

The city also set guidelines for fees with the small cells: $245 for a one-time, per-pole application fee, as well as annual per-pole fees comparable to a lease. Those would be $450 for attachments atop a pole and $300 for attachments on the existing space.

Assistant City Manager Lauren Palmer said the $300 fee amounts to about half the cost of a pole for Independence Power & Light. The 1.5 multiplier for pole top attachments is for the extra infrastructure involved with the pole.

“We definitely feel like the way we are charging is comparable to what other cities (with public utilities) do,” Palmer said.

The city also maintains some flexibility to alter its standard agreement based on technology changes.

“Our staff at IPL tells us they're learning new things about this technology all the time,” Palmer said. “It's to the benefit of our providers to give us flexibility.”

Penny Speake from the Healy Law Office in Springfield, which has been advising the city in dealing with the wireless issues, said the Federal Communications Commission has not provided anything for reference.

“The FCC has been looking at the small cell attachments, but we don't have a formula to operate off,” Speake said. “There's simply nothing at the state level or federal level to guide us.”

 

Park gates unlocked

To help patrol city parks through the winter, the city says it will leave gates unlocked after dark, allowing police officers' cars easier access to the parks so they can respond to citizen calls more efficiently.

Before, the access gates to many parks had been locked at night – deterring vehicles but not pedestrians. Winter park hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. unless citizens have reserved facilities.

“Our parks are the heart of many areas of our neighborhoods and we believe this change in protocol will allow us to better serve our community,” Independence Parks, Recreation & Tourism Director Eric Urfer said in a release. “We depend on citizens to be our eyes and ears, alerting us of problems and concerns. We are thinking outside of the box and hope citizens will continue to help us protect our parks and facilities.”