Guelph-Eramosa uncertain about outsourcing telecommunication applications

Guelph-Eramosa remains undecided on the future of municipal involvement in the application process for telecommunication towers.

Planning associate Kelsey Lang told council at its meeting on Jan. 5 staff are currently using telecommunication protocol issued in 2002, thus limiting their influence and authority over the application process.

“The township is not exercising all the control it could be,” Lang explained.

“The township and public are consulted and are able to offer some input, but it’s very limited – mostly slight location differences – we can only ask for what’s in our protocol.”

Lang presented three options for council’s review:

– continuing with the current 2002 protocol or defaulting to industry Canada specifications. No updates would be required, but staff would continue to process and handle tower applications;

– creating a new township protocol, involving staff research into similar documents to compile a township-specific version; or

– joining the Canadian Radiocommunications Information and Notification Service organization (CRINS).

The first two options require additional work by staff.

Mayor Chris White wondered how much sway the township actually has and whether it would be worth having staff spend time on something that is not a core service.

“At the end of the day, what’s our role? At the end of the day, Industry Canada isn’t going to listen to us anyway – we look like we’re making a decision when really we have no control at all,” he said.

“It’s not a core municipal service so should we be expending time and resources?”

Staff recommended council appoint CRINS to complete the review and consultation process on behalf of the municipality. Member municipalities are allowed to select a staff representative to sit on the CRINS board and it is no cost to join.

Lang said becoming a member of CRINS would provide the township with an up-to-date telecommunications protocol, free up staff for other projects and ensure future applications are processed with a higher level of expertise.

“It requires minor staff time, they handle the public consultation process, write the final report and then present it to you,” Lang explained.

“It’s a much more hands-off approach, but they’re experts in telecommunications and their mandate is increasing municipal power in making comment on these applications.”

Currently applicants are charged $1,560 for each submission, along with township consulting costs. If Guelph-Eramosa signed on with CRINS it is recommended they charge $2,500 – the same fee as the City of Guelph – to avoid tower clusters around the urban perimeter.

Lang said half of the fee would come to the municipality.

Councillor Corey Woods asked how such fees are determined.

“If we charge $1,500 and the City of Guelph charges $2,500, who regulates that?” he asked. “Is this a fee that has to be approved by the province?”

Lang said CRINS sets a base fee and from there, discrepancy is allotted to the municipality.

“They allow the municipality to attach any costs incurred by the municipality,” she explained. “They recommended charging the same as the City of Guelph so as not to

deter towers from being located here.”

Councillor David Wolk said he had concerns about joining CRINS without investigating the relatively new organization. He said he was worried that if the company went under, member municipalities would somehow be held financially liable.

“They have a short existence, rampant rise in municipalities from four different provinces … and no federal involvement,” Wolk said.

“The principal is very good but it’s very opportunistic.”

CAO Kim Wingrove said having staff manage applications would be “challenging.”

“This [would] require a significant commitment of staff … in order to make sure all the outreach to the public is done and communication is complete,” she said. “We may need to get outside resources to look at that information.”

White said outsourcing the task seemed to be a no-brainer.

“I think it keeps us current without us spinning wheels on something that’s not municipal,” he added.

“I think we owe it to ourselves to do a bit of legal research,” Wolk reiterated. “If this is an organization that is going to have some debt, the owners are going to be responsible. We are an owner if we are on that board.”

White agreed to seek legal advice before joining the organization, but emphasized with the demand for reliable service, the township needs to make a decision as soon as possible.

“One of the biggest problems in rural Ontario is the lack of high speed internet,” he said. “We [need] protocol in place so we [aren’t] an easy target … I’d rather have something in place that allows us to do our due diligence.”

Council deferred the motion until more information could be obtained about CRINS.