Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen blasted recent state legislation sponsored by Oak Lawn’s own legislators, Senator Bill Cunningham and Representative Kelly Burke noting the village was not consulted.
After making the motion to approve a right away ordinance with Mobile IT LLC, Trustee Tim Desmond noted that the Village had previously approved an ordinance requiring cell phone companies to adhere to the prevailing wage act and wondered why that provision was not in the ordinance.
Village Attorney Paul O’Grady explained that the prevailing wage act did not apply because the General Assembly had passed SB 1451 which he characterized as taking away some of the Village’s home rule powers to control cell phone towers.
“The bottom line is that we lost a lot of control to restrict what AT&T, Verizon or other companies can put on a light pole in our town and how we control their access…”, stated O’Grady.
Deetjen wasn’t as diplomatic stating, “Tim (Desmond) this is bad legislation. Another typical example of what happens in Springfield without consulting local officials. Cable television used to be regulated by individual municipalities and your legislators and your congressman gave that away through lobbyists and through aggressive efforts by telecommunications.”
Deetjen predicted that residents would see “another wave” because of the frequent use of the internet, streaming, and creating an incredible demand. He said the companies want to now use light poles and the companies don’t want municipalities to have any input on the construction or to be able to charge the companies.
Deetjen said that the Mayor and Trustees need to tell the local legislators that it is a bad law driven by telecommunications companies that want to avoid local control.
O’Grady followed up saying that the village’s powers were stripped away when Desmond said he was asking if the village could restrict who does the actual work.
O’Grady noted that the bill, sponsored in the Senate by Cunningham, and by Kelly Burke in the Illinois House, was already signed by the Governor and is now the law.
Desmond then asked why the village was even discussing the issue if the law prevents the village from imposing restrictions. He asked if the matter could be postponed
Deetjen recommended passage of the ordinance because the company in question was willing to work with the village on some issues such as the design of any box that they place on a light pole. Deetjen said he would encourage the company to pay the prevailing wage and “press” the company but the state law dictates what can be done. The company agreed to pay the village $500 to place a box on a ComEd pole in District 3.
SB 1457 Provides that a municipality may not prohibit, regulate, or charge for the collocation of small wireless facilities (the installation, mounting, maintaining, modifying, operating, or replacement of small wireless facilities on or adjacent to a wireless support structure or utility pole). It also Provides that small wireless facilities shall be classified as permitted uses and not subject to zoning review and approval under specified circumstances.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak said that the issue that bothered him the most was that in the past the village was able to keep them in certain places in the past and make sure that cell towers weren’t all over the place. “Now with the new law, based on our great legislators in Springfield, we don’t even have the ability to control where they’re going to be and how they’re going to look in the Village of Oak Lawn.” O’Grady answered Olejniczak directly, stating, “correct”.
Olejnczak noted that the village cannot demand that prevailing wage be paid. O’Grady answered Olejniczak directly, stating, “correct”.
O’Grady did tell the board that it isn’t the first time that the General Assembly has taken power away from the local village leaders.
Oak Lawn does not have lobbyists working for the village at the General Assembly although the Mayor and Board of Trustees does pay a federal lobbyist $60,000 a year. The City of Chicago was the only municipality that was exempted from the legislation. Chicago employs lobbyists and has a strong contingent of legislators who call the city their home.
Deetjen, in addition to blaming the legislators, credited lobbyists for the telecommunications industry. “We were not consulted on this (bill). Lobbyists very smartly, because they know about cable television…said you’ve got to put this trough or every little municipality is going to try to put in …”. He said those companies didn’t want to deal with the regulations and the legislators said “okay, give me your campaign check…”
While Desmond wanted to negotiate, but Desmond said the village didn’t have any authority because of the law causing Desmond to ask why the board is considering the matter. Olejniczak then turned to Desmond and said, “Because Larry (Deetjen) thinks we’re going to get $500 bucks and in a week from now or month from now, we won’t”.
Mayor Sandra Bury called the legislation “frustrating”. Deetjen told the board he’s always trying to get more but the village is limited because there is no negotiation.
Trustees Desmond and Olejniczak voted “no” but Trustees Tom Phelan, and Robert Streit voted “yes”. Mayor Sandra Bury broke the tie voting “yes”.