One week after State Rep. Jason Zachary (R-District 14) and AT&T helped hammer out a proposed 5G dissemination deal between Town of Farragut and Verizon, Zachary expanded on the issue during the March 12 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
While no deal yet exists in writing, Zachary also noted a comprehensive report is being undertaken by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, “which should address health or safety concerns.
“One thing we have to understand, there is nothing we can do to prohibit” 5G cell towers, he added.
“But they are on notice, and if anything comes up in the TACIR report, we can address that at a later time.
“The battle is not over, this is just Phase 1,” Zachary said.
Several residents who spoke, along with Alderman Scott Meyer, did question the unknown safety issues that might arise.
“So we can’t win on health concerns?” Meyer asked. “Can you expand on that?
“In terms of it being a safety issue, I’m going to be really really transparent, right now, if you bring up safety issues of 5G, … you are looked at as the ‘tin foil hat guy,’ so to win we have to fight on the grounds we know we can win,” Zachary said.
“Hopefully, the TACIR report will include some aspect of that so we have something conclusive to stand on.”
“So you have to volunteer to raise your children next to these poles for 20 years, to see if they’ve grown four heads?” Meyer asked. “That’s the issue — there is a health issue, with these poles, and the radiation. ... And I don’t think I wear a tin hat. I wear a lot of hats, but that’s not one of them.”
“We have to fight the battle we know we can win right now,” Zachary said. “This is just Phase 1. I am not saying there are no health concerns, but I am saying we can’t fight that battle today.”
“Jason has a good point,” Town Mayor Ron Williams said. “We have to fight the issue that is in front of us right now. The TACIR report may be the first next step. Scott, we have to wait ’til that comes out, and folded into that, see what’s going on (with pertinent lawsuits) in California and Maryland.
“That’s the place it needs to be, that’s where the fight is — at the federal level,” said Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, who as a member of the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission has been following the matter very closely.
“So we can’t stop them … but we could make it difficult, we can be sassy, and hope they will place their poles in a place that is pleasing to the community?” Meyer asked.
“We can work to co-locate, and follow a plan that is aesthetically pleasing, but we gotta make sure we aren’t sassy to that guy,” said Alderman Drew Burnette, as he pointed to Zachary. “That’s the guy who is fighting for us. We can’t show him sass, and you don’t need to point anger and frustration at him in something he has absolutely no control over.”
“My point is to ask about the health issues, which are extraordinarily obvious,” Meyer responded. “But I understand that’s a battle we can’t win on.”
“It is a battle we can’t win right now — in March of 2020,” Zachary said. “That could change next week, if that ruling comes down.”
House Bill 2150
About sponsoring House Bill 2150, “My first responsibility is to my district, the second is to Knox County, the third is to the state,” Zachary said. “So this legislation was very specific to Farragut. We obviously use legislation to pass laws, but we also use it to create conversation and leverage.”
Zachary said as soon as the bill was drafted, “everybody got worked up,” including AT&T, “a powerful lobbying group.”
He also explained that suggested co-location between Lenoir City Utilities Board and Verizon was, in fact, waiting to be approved by Verizon, not LCUB, as had been previously reported.
Zachary described a little more of what went on behind the scenes the day of the committee meeting, which included “intense words,” a committee member who was unable to attend because of the March 2 tornadoes, then his own willingness to “roll the bill” working toward a solution.
“Farragut’s aesthetic plan is all over, but (AT&T’s) president walked us through it,” he added.
“I want to thank the Mayor, the Board and David Smoak (Town administrator) – how they have all worked, on your behalf,” Zachary said to the audience.
Town Attorney Tom Hale helped with the wording for HB 2150.