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Illinois towns prepare for new small cell towers

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Fifth Generation (5G) data service may soon be coming to Illinois. Adding 5G should provide another leap in speed and reliability to internet service around the state. But the new technology requires new physical infrastructure. Unlike the giant cell towers used be previous generations, 5G uses “small cell” towers to provide coverage. Small cell towers take up just a few cubic feet of space. Because of their size, these towers can be placed on existing utility poles and other structures.

In April, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law to help facilitate the rollout of the new technology. This bill greatly constrains the ability of municipalities to restrict how and where the small cell towers could be installed. It also capped the fees that municipalities could charge cell providers to use their poles. These caps preempted existing ordinances, including those in Springfield and Chatham.

The timer starts

The new law became effective on June 1st. Even though the old ordinances had been preempted, cities were only given two months to draft new ordinances. According to Jacksonville’s City Attorney Daniel Beard, the time constrains add another challenge to an already complex issue. Fortunately, the Illinois Municipal League has helped by providing a sample ordinance for cities to work off of.

Both the Jacksonville City Council and Chatham Village Board discussed this issue at their last meetings. Jacksonville approved drafting the new rules, and should be discussing them at their next meeting. Chatham is likewise actively looking to replace their old ordinance. They should have little trouble adopting a new ordinance by the deadline.

But Springfield may be less prepared on this issue. While several aldermen I spoke with were aware that Springfield’s old rules had been preempted, they were not aware of any new ordinance coming through the pipeline. Mayor Jim Langfelder explained that Springfield has a complex relationship with cell provider AT&T, which has delayed adopting new rules. He assured me that new rules are being drafted, and thinks they should be ready before the August 1st deadline.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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LIVE | Springfield City Council meeting February 19th

Staff Contributor

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Follow along live with the Springfield City Council meeting February 19th, 2019. The FY20 budget will be up for final discussion and vote.

DSI also discussed the plans for the upcoming concert series supported by the Levitt Foundation. Springfield won a nationwide Levitt AMP contest for a $25,000 grant.

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LIVE | Springfield City Council committee of the whole February 13th, 2019

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Follow along live with the Springfield City Council committee of the whole. This meeting was moved from the 12th for Lincoln’s birthday. Brian McFadden from Sangamon County spoke about the animal control situation and the county’s policies.

UIS baseball coach Chris Ramirez was recognized for his team’s achievements. Ramirez was awarded coach of the year.

This meeting was preceded by a special City Council meeting, where $1.2 million in TIF funding was approved for the Poplar Place Redevelopment Project. This money will go towards road infrastructure for the area. The council was unanimous in their support for the project, and looks forward to the multi-million dollar development.

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New Obama exhibit opens and African American History Museum

Thomas Clatterbuck

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President Barack Obama was the first African American president of the United States, and the fourth to have strong ties to Illinois. His two terms as president usually draw the most attention, but a new exhibit at the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum focuses on the start of his political career. Before rising to national prominence as a US Senator and later as President, Obama served in the General Assembly right here in Springfield.

Obama worked with many people in the Springfield area, many of whom are still active in the community. At the exhibit opening, two of his former staffers and mentors, Beverly Helm-Renfro and Nia Odeoti-Hassan, shared their experiences working with the then Senator Obama. From the first time they met the future president, to Michelle Obama’s reaction to Obama getting his first bill passed, to his eventual move to DC, these two women spoke about a side of him most outsiders never got to see. You can watch their full talk in the player.

The Obama exhibit showcases memorabilia and other artifacts from Obama’s time in the General Assembly all the way through his time as president. Community members from Springfield provided their own items to share their link with the president.

The museum is located at 1440 Monument Avenue, near the entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery, and is open from 12 PM – 4 PM Tuesday through Friday, and 10 AM – 5:00 PM on Saturday. You can also check out their website at spiaahm.org.

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