5G costing Nevada City more than anticipated
After spending thousands of dollars, months of time and creating controversy within the community, Nevada City officials are hoping their latest attempt at reconciling changes to its 5G wireless telecom regulations will be their last.
According to Nevada City Manager Catrina Olson, the city has spent more than $41,000 on lawyers’ fees in drafting and discussing the ordinance, not including staff time, and continued focus on the issue could put the city in financial risk.
“We are dangerously close to being at 70% of our legal budget,” Olson said during the last City Council meeting. “All of this is having an impact on our budget.”
Olson said the city is six months behind in increasing parking meter fees, meaning continued attention to the issue could come at the expense of the city’s revenue, on top of the money it’s already spending.
Last week, the City Council authorized spending another six hours with its lawyer to try incorporating changes to the ordinance proposed during a workshop Mayor Reinette Senum held independent of the council in October.
During the workshop, the mayor and residents discussed the best way to pressure council members to agree to the changes, including having meetings with council members.
The group wanted the council to add explicit health and safety standards to the ordinance, expand public right-to-know requirements and require compliance reports with unannounced checks, among other changes.
According to Council member Duane Strawser, the proposed changes brought to him by workshop attendees seemed reasonable enough to iron out with the city’s counsel within the budgeted time frame.
“It was so easy to sit down in a friendly way over coffee,” Strawser said of the meeting with community members. “We shouldn’t have to sit here and spin our wheels any longer. We can get what everybody wants.”
Far from just costing the council’s time, council members have said the issue has created rifts among the community, the council and staff.
According to Council member Erin Minett, the contentious nature of council meetings with 5G on the agenda has caused the council to request an extra security presence.
“I’ve waited until the crowd died down before leaving,” Minett said of the extra precautions she’s taken.
According to Strawser and Minett, dealing with 5G facility regulations in that atmosphere contributed to the council adding discussion of removing Mayor Senum’s title to the next council meeting.
According to Senum, however, the council’s delay in adding the changes since the workshop and its vote not to have a council-sponsored workshop back in February are examples of it not prioritizing community input.
“They don’t seem motivated,” Senum said after the workshop. “I don’t know if they want input at this time.”
Senum said whatever cost the city incurs to create a more robust ordinance would be worth it compared to the liability she said could fall upon the city with class action lawsuits stemming from the potentially negative health effects of 5G implementation.
“The lawyers’ fees are tens of thousands,” Senum said. “A class action lawsuit will be hundreds of thousands, millions.”
Though the city’s attorney Baron Bettenhausen has maintained the ordinance is already as strong as it can be, Strawser said he hopes by sitting down with all parties without the dramatic atmosphere of the City Council meetings, people can come to an understanding even if they don’t get everything they want.
“It’s already helped tremendously,” Strawser said of meeting with community members face to face. “The two hours I spent today probably did more towards including what they wanted than anything in the last year.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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