Council hangs up on call for progress

Emily Bialkowski

Managing Editor

Twice now the Caledonia City Council has denied a permit to construct a cellphone tower in city limits. The first request and subsequent denial came on Jan. 13 when SBA Communication Corporation sought permission to build a 300-foot tower in Sprague Woods on the north side of town.

The location avoided disturbing the airport but put the structure on donated land. At that meeting, Mayor Robert Burns expressed concern over the fact that the land was a gift and should be treated as such, in addition to aesthetic concerns.

“Personally, I don’t like the idea of that being the first thing you see coming up the hill into Caledonia,” he said.

Council Member Tom Murphy said Sprague Woods was not donated with the intent of turning it into a commercial property but added that, at the very least, this issue warranted a public hearing.

Indeed, a public hearing would have been a welcome option. That is, until the council voted to deny the request.

Then, on Jan. 27, SBA Communication Corporation came back with a modified plan that situated the tower on a combination of private and city land while still avoiding the airport. The proposed site placed the tower directly behind the wild turkey capital sign on the north side of town.

At that meeting, the mayor re-emphasized his concern over aesthetics. I agree that giant steel scaffolding in Caledonia would be visually striking at first but, much like electric and cable lines, I believe the structure would fade into obscurity over time.

Council Member Dewayne Schroeder expressed similar thoughts.

“I think, once it is up, you probably are not going to notice it,” Schroeder said at the meeting. He also said that by denying the cell tower, it appeared the city was against progress.

Good call, Mr. Schroeder. Small towns need every possible advantage if they intend to attract new business and industry, and the lack of cellphone competition in Caledonia is hurting consumers and potential businesses. It also hurts visitors that, if abundant, can help the city improve its economic durability.

On Feb. 4 the Caledonia Argus  staff uploaded the latest council story to our Web page, That story was reposted on Facebook by an online reader with the comment: “Towns a third the size of us have better technology because we can’t look past road bumps. We have two huge baby blue water towers, 14 open store fronts downtown and no progress in home construction within city limits. When will our leaders make changes for progress in the city and county! Lord help us.”

That Facebook post prompted other comments, such as: “I have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and have never had a problem getting a signal, except for Caledonia. Ridiculous.” And, “The city of Caledonia has always been short on looking ahead yet always looks down their collective noses at everyone else. When we came back last summer it really hit me how sad and empty it’s become.”

I wouldn’t exactly deem the city “sad and empty,” but I’m certainly concerned that a viable business came here seeking a partnership and the answer was “we’re not interested” twice.

I deeply respect those who take up the flag and agree to represent us in any level of government, be it federal, state or local, but I don’t always agree with the decision making, and this is an example of that.

If enough people feel more careful consideration should be given to the cellphone tower proposal, and actually communicate that to the council, perhaps they will reconsider the matter.

I guess we need to make a few phone calls and let the City Council know how we feel. Mind you, that might be an easier task if we had more cellphone providers in town.

Council members include Tom Murphy, Dewayne Schroeder, Robert Burns, Randi Vick and Robert Lemke.


You can contact Emily
Bialkowski at [email protected]