Undetermined Number of New Cellular Poles Coming to Blairsville

Community, News
Cellular Poles

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – In a 4 to 1 vote, the city council approved the ordinance to collect fees from Verizon for the installation of small cell towers in Blairsville. Verizon confirmed that several new cellular poles will go up across town within the right of ways.

“Verizon designated Blairsville as a site where the cell service is weak at times,” explained Mayor Jim Conley, “The legislature passed a law in regards to small cell services giving them legally the right to come in and place poles in needed areas to put their equipment on.”

The poles won’t be above 50 feet and would have a small cell hardware device.

Originally, the city hoped that the Blue Ridge Mountain EMC (BRMEMC) and Verizon could work out a deal to use BRMEMC poles for some of the devices.

“It was understood in the first reading that we could use EMC poles as well,” said Council Member Tony Dyer.

Dyer asked what happened to negotiations between Verizon and BRMEMC before approving the ordinance.

Fetch Your News contacted BRMEMC about using EMC poles within the city, and they stated that they were still open to working with Verizon, but hadn’t heard from the company since Aug. 13. Verizon’s spokesperson stated that negotiations were still open as well.

However, Verizon told the city council differently before the Oct. meeting. Currently, it’s unclear how many poles or towers will be needed or if BRMEMC will be utilized at all.

The cellular corporation has a meeting scheduled with the mayor later in Oct. to discuss how many new poles will go up in the right of ways throughout the city.

The ordinance passed in the meeting allows Blairsville to charge Verizon for installing small cell towers across the town. According to the law passed by the Georgia Legislature, Verizon can legally install the towers to improve service without the ordinance’s approval.

Essentially, the towers are coming to Blairsville no matter what, but the passage of the ordinance ensures a monetary benefit.  The council can’t deny Verizon access.

Councilmember Betty Easter made a motion to pass the ordinance, Councilmember Rhonda Mahan seconded, and Councilmember Mary Ruth Cook voted against it.

At this time, Verizon hasn’t determined the number of new cellular poles coming to the area.

Verizon and City Reach Agreement On Expanding Cell Coverage


Blairsville, Ga – Verizon’s small cell towers and 4G coverage took a step closer to becoming a reality after Blairsville’ Mayor Jim Conley introduced an ordinance to the city council.

After the initial discussion of adding small cell towers in May 2019, Verizon, City of Blairsville, and Blue Ridge Mountain EMC (BRMEMC) have reached an agreement about using existing EMC poles for the small cell towers.

However, Verizon might need to add a pole in the right of way within city limits to ensure accurate coverage of the area.

Small cell towers refer to radio transmitters to assist with cell coverage within the city limits, but as of now, it doesn’t extend into Union County.

“Where would they go? I don’t want one in my front yard,” stated Councilmember Mary Ruth Cook, “I don’t want it just going up willy-nilly. Do we have any say-so where they go?”

Conley responded, “In the right of way and that’s already dedicated, it would be the same if EMC wanted to put a pole there.”

A small cell facility will house an antenna that takes up no more than six cubic feet, and all other equipment will be no larger than 26 cubic feet.

The size of micro small cell towers is approximately 24 inches in length, 15 inches in width, 12 inches in height, and an antenna of no more than 11 inches.

Small Cell Tower

Examples of the units installed on top of a light pole. Provided by Verizon.

“Our approach is that we would like to use the existing infrastructure so utility poles, light poles, and only if we have no other option would we seek to put in new poles. We have agreements with GDOT. Also, we’re working with BRMEMC to collocate on something like this,” commented Eleanor Callaghan.

Callaghan also speculated on the number of small cell towers needed for Blairsville and asserted 15 at the most. However, the project is still in the engineering phase, and no final numbers are available at this time.

Councilmember Tony Dyer asked Verizon representative to speak to the need of this technology in Blairsville.

“It’s so we can densify our network because with all the data usage that people have,” remarked Callaghan, “It shows that we need to improve.”

Georgia Legislature made the small cell tower initiative into law last year, and the city has until October 1st to enact it. The city will receive a three percent fee from Verizon for installing small cell towers in the city.

Blairsville City Council must approve permits for placement in right of way locations.

The ordinance still could change before the October 1st signing date.

Verizon Wants to Enhance Network Coverage in Blairsville

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Verizon logo

Blairsville, GA – Spokeswoman from Verizon Wireless presented a plan to bring small cell towers into the city to improve the area’s network coverage.

Traffic engineers from Verizon noticed the need for increased network capacity within the community. “The exponential growth or hockey stick growth is putting a lot of demand on the [current] cell towers and [Verizon] would like to pull another tool from their tool kit with small cell towers,” said Eleanor Callaghan, a Verizon engineer.

Callaghan proposed partnering with the city to add small cell towers to existing structures, such as light poles and traffic signs. By installing these towers, Blairsville will have faster wireless service on the 4G network. Also, Verizon will install the towers at no cost and won’t build new large towers unless absolutely necessary.

Small Cell Towers from Verizon Wireless

Example of Verizon’s Small Cell Towers

The minimum height requirement for a pole needs to be 26 feet with a maximum height of 50 feet. The set height requirements serve to keep wireless emissions lower than the general population of the area. The radios are about the size of an answering machine, and the antenna transmits at a low frequency. Verizon operates below the FCC emissions standards.

The small cell towers do not affect other services in the area and would take at least a year to be fully installed.

“Small cells in existing infrastructure would give [Blairsville] faster upload and download speeds, and give you the extra capacity for all connected devices for merchants running transactions and online ordering,” stated Callaghan.

55 percent of homes are wireless only, and the enhanced connectivity allows for faster triangulation of people’s location. The closer signals can improve response times for first responders and create an efficient method for gathering information.

The small cell towers also cut down on search times when people look for entertainment or restaurants on their phones. Also, the towers could bring services like Uber and Lyft to the area since it’s easier to locate people who want to use the service.

Mayor Jim Conley asked, “Do you have a model ordinance that other cities use?”

Callaghan stated that ordinances are not necessary due to the comprehensive nature of the FCC Small Cell Law, but provided the Sandy Springs ordinance and permit process for the city council to review. “We may have to do an ordinance because of our charter,” said Mayor Conley.

Councilman Buddy Moore asked for more information about the need of the towers to review before making a decision.

“I see how this can help us, but I don’t feel like we can give you answer tonight without reviewing the ordinance to see what other folks have put into it because this is all new to us. Mrs. Callaghan if you want to send that ordinance to us again, and we can arrange to have you come back once we review this ordinance,” said Mayor Conley.

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