At their first meetings of the new year — and the first for newly elected councilors — Keene City Council committees voted last week to push forward on a study of potential commercial service at the Keene airport and to hold a public hearing about 5G technology.
Councilors conduct most of their work in committee meetings, where members of the public can offer input and ask questions. The committee’s recommendations then go to the full council for a final vote.
As suggested by city staff, the planning, licenses and development committee put on more time a draft ordinance that would establish Keene’s guidelines for public right-of-way installation of small wireless facilities — technology that would allow providers to expand the current generation of mobile networks, 4G, as well as pave the way for the next generation, 5G.
“More time” is a term for when a proposal is sent to staff for further review. Putting an item on more time does not require full council approval, since the proposal will at some point return to the committee.
After listening to two concerned members of the public, however, Councilor Philip M. Jones suggested the council should hold a public hearing on the ordinance.
Globally, people have raised questions about the safety of this new technology. Because small cells have shorter wavelengths and need to be installed in greater density, there are claims of unknown health risks. A handful of people have voiced similar concerns at city committee meetings, including Councilor Terry M. Clark.
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which has developed exposure guidelines used by governments around the world, writes on its website that a considerable amount of research has not indicated any such health risks.
Jones proposed a public hearing, and the committee unanimously voted to recommend the idea to the council.
The finance, organization and personnel committee recommended authorizing City Manager Elizabeth A. Dragon to negotiate and execute a contract for a market study of commercial service at the Keene-owned Dillant-Hopkins Airport in Swanzey.
The city’s current budget allocates $35,000 for this study.
If approved by the council this week, Dragon would negotiate with the preferred consulting firm: Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Inc., headquartered in Springfield, Ill. If that’s unsuccessful, though, the committee’s recommendation includes a provision that would allow her to work with the city’s second choice, Volaire Aviation Consulting of Fishers, Ind. Assistant City Manager Rebecca Landry told the committee that David Hickling, who takes over as the new airport director next month, has experience working with Volaire.
The City Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall.