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LWA: lake area needs more cell phone towers

Posted: October 15, 2013 5:26 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Lake Wateree Association (LWA) urged its members and other concerned citizens in an email to attend a Kershaw County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Monday to let commissioners know more cell phone towers are needed on the lake and in other rural areas of the county.

Kershaw County Council recently sent back a proposed amendment to redefine the fall zone of, or distance between, cell phone towers. Council passed two readings of the amendment, but Chairman Gene Wise tabled it at third reading. Council unanimously voted Oct. 8 to send the amendment back to the commission.

The LWA email highlighted concerns of several members regarding “poor cell phone service on the east bank of the lake and along Highway 97.” It mentioned a specific occurrence where a member’s granddaughter suffered a serious medical emergency and family members were not able to make a call for help due to the lack of a cell signal.

The LWA email not only encouraged citizens to attend Monday’s planning and zoning session, but county council’s Oct. 22 meeting as well to voice their opinions.

In a telephone interview with the C-I LWA member Rick Williams said “there is an absolute critical need in this county for increased cell coverage.”

Williams was present at Monday’s meeting and reported that the result was “favorable.”

“I am very excited that we as a county are moving forward. We were able to make a compromise between the cell tower installers and the councilman’s suggestion,” Williams said, referring to a different version of the amendment offered by Councilman Jimmy Jones.

Williams declined to comment on the specifics of what was determined Monday, saying he wanted Kershaw County Council to hear about the compromise for themselves at its next meeting. He did say, however, that the agreement would give cell providers more flexibility to build towers in the county.

Williams, originally from Charlotte, said he has been inconvenienced in his four years of living in the county, having to drive 15 to 20 miles to receive cell phone service and check his voicemails.

“Everything is online now,” he said. “It’s unacceptable that we would not be offered Internet and cell services in our homes.”

Williams spoke favorably of Sandhill Telephone Cooperative’s efforts. Sandhill is reported to have worked closely with the planning and zoning commission to create a favorable amendment for increased cell towers in the county.

Sandhill Network Manager Kirby Wayne said the company based its original amendment suggestion of 1,500 feet between cell towers on ordinances in neighboring counties. Wayne said most neighboring counties “have ordinances between 500 and 1,500 feet” and residents in those counties were pleased with the service they received with those distances in place.

He said Sandhill has been “totally willing to compromise” with county citizens. Wayne said he has been present at every council meeting regarding the ordinance. He also said that Sandhill and the commission have worked closely together to formulate an amendment that will best serve the county’s citizens.

Monday’s version of the amendment will be presented to council Oct. 22. Williams indicated he will be in attendance and believed the outcome would be favorable.

“Technology is so needed in this county,” he said.

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