O.B. hopes allowing taller towers will lead to better phone reception; NCAA All-American will help coach 2-time defending champ softball team –

O.B. hopes allowing taller towers will lead to better phone reception;
NCAA All-American will help coach 2-time defending champ softball tea

By John Mullen
It’s just a couple of small changes, but Orange Beach Community Development Director Kit Alexander said the adjustments to cell phone tower rules will help improve cell usage in the city.
“It may not sound like a big increase but it does equate to a big advantage for connectivity which we are currently having problems with in Orange Beach,” Alexander said at the Aug. 2 council meeting. “The Telecommunications Committee had discussion about this and we’re striving to improve our carrier communication in Orange Beach. This will help.”
The changes involve allowing for the small poles to be 10 feet higher and less restrictive rules on what can be placed on cell poles in city rights of way.
“We had discussions with AT&T and Verizon engineers and they have relayed to us that 50 feet would be advantageous because it would allow for less poles and it would allow for greater connectivity,” Alexander said. “The height limitation for residential construction in Orange Beach with the exception of on the beach is 40 feet. So, if you have poles that are at 50 feet those antennae can communicate better and anytime they are higher it’s just better communication period.”
Mayor Tony Kennon said he believes the city needs to improve cell service and this is one way to try and accomplish that.
“They can put one on my house if it will improve reception,” Kennon said. “We have to have reception and 12 poles a few feet here or there are not going to ruin our landscape. If it’s adequate that’s great. If it’s not, I would like to make it whatever it takes for improvement.”
Alexander said several applications have been submitted to place the poles but the way the ordinance currently reads they are not allowed in Orange Beach.
“I have applications that are held up currently because they cannot be approved due to these restrictions,” Alexander said. “We’re not just making these changes because they asked us to but because of actual applications that have been denied.”
Telecommunications Committee Chairman and Councilman Jerry Johnson said several companies are looking at putting the higher poles in Orange Beach and are working to make them unobtrusive.
“Verizon is preparing to put in 12 small cells by the end of this year at key points to help minimize dropped calls,” Johnson said. “We’re wanting to work with our carriers. I know AT&T is going to be installing some also and probably T-Mobile. But we want it to where it blends in with whatever poles we use so it won’t be an eyesore going down the road. I think we accomplished that with Kit’s help and the ordinance that we have.”
The council suspended the rules to immediately consider the ordinance and passed it on a 4-0 vote with Kennon, Johnson and councilmembers Jeff Silvers and Joni Blalock voting yes. Councilmembers Jeff Boyd and Annette Mitchell were absent.
The two-time defending state champion Orange Beach High School softball team could score three big wins at the Tuesday, Aug. 2, city council meeting. The combined regular/work session will be at 5 p.m. in council chambers.
NCAA champion coach will join champs
The council also hired a former NCAA All-American and national champion to provide coaching services for its two-time defending state champion Orange Beach High School softball team and tabled a decision to make two improvements to the softball stadium at the Orange Beach Sportsplex during the meeting.
Katelyn Boyd Carson played softball at Arizona State from 2009-12 and during that time was a three-time All-American and the Sun Devils won the championship in 2011. She most recently was a coach for a softball travel team out of Hoover.
The council postponed a decision to spend $256,217 for artificial turf on the softball field. This cost is for materials only and not installation. Anothr item on the softball stadium is having the dugouts moved at a cost of about $20,000.
Back in May, the council discussed paying Sawgrass $88,000 for land survey and design work for conversion of the baseball and softball fields to turf surface. Coaches have expressed interest in having turf on the fields at the Sportsplex and Mayor Tony Kennon said at that time it would have to “make sense financially” to move forward with the project and city officials seem to have reached that conclusion.
“We’ll evaluate the cost versus the return on reduction on maintenance, personnel, labor and it needs to break even over the life of the turf for what it costs us to maintain and keep up with the grass,” Kennon said at the time.
During the regular session, the council:
• Awarded the bid for debris clearance, disposal and sand reclamation to D&J Enterprises.
• Postponed awarding the bid for the Community Development Building Renovation to GreenCo Services in an amount not to exceed $268,731.
• Authorized the sole source purchase of a crash data retrieval tool from Crash Data Group for the police department in the amount of $19,525.
• During the work session, the council discussed:
• Awarding the bid for two golf carts for the Expect Excellence Department.
• Setting a public hearing and first reading for an ordinance for a planned unit development change for a setback encroachment at 49 Park’s Edge for Aug. 16.
• Setting a public hearing and first reading for an ordinance amending The Wharf PUD modification to allow for a Cobblestone Hotel for Aug. 16.
• A public hearing and introduction of an ordinance to amend the Zeke’s Landing PUD for modification to a building sign.

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