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Published: Wednesday, 9/26/2007

Toledo mayor seeks moratorium on telecom boxes

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The proliferation of large metal cabinets for telecommunications equipment placed in the city's right-of-way by AT&T has prompted a request for a moratorium.

The Finkbeiner administration yesterday asked council to block new permits for the boxes - typically, clusters of metal boxes that appear to be the size of a washing machine - out of concern that they could be placed in front of a residence.

Council heard the moratorium request at its nonvoting agenda review meeting yesterday.

Members balked at a request to ban new installations until February, but agreed to vote Tuesday on a one-month moratorium to allow time for a hearing at which AT&T could answer questions.

Joyce Anagnos, senior attorney in the city's Department of Public Utilities, said at least 20 of the AT&T boxes have been placed, and another 20 are pending. As many as 200 could be placed.

She said AT&T has obtained the proper city permits.

Ms. Anagnos said federal law allows regulated utilities, such as AT&T, to use municipal rights-of-way. Municipalities are allowed to make reasonable restrictions on the boxes, she said.

She said the administration wants to consider tightening its regulations, especially for placement in residential areas.

Caryn Candisky, director of public affairs for AT&T Ohio, said the company is installing boxes as part of AT&T's Project Lightspeed and video services. She said the installations in Toledo may not all be part of Project Lightspeed.

She described Project Lightspeed as "an aggressive AT&T initiative to upgrade its telecom network by pushing fiber-optic technology further into the neighborhoods we serve," to provide better phone, better high-speed Internet, and, eventually, video services.

"We typically work with the local community on a site-by-site basis, and before we locate any box we submit plans as to what we're building," Ms. Candisky said. "We have been working with the city of Toledo as well."

The project is a three-year initiative aimed at reaching 18 million homes at a cost of more than $6 billion in a 13-state area, including Ohio, by the end of 2008 nationally.

The city's proposed moratorium says the boxes are "very large and generating complaints from citizens."

District 2 Councilman Rob Ludeman cited boxes in front of the new Byrnedale Junior High and at Reo Street and Holland-Sylvania Road as posing potential sight-obstruction issues.

In other action, council heard an administration request to create a grant program that would help pay for facade improvements and new signs on South Reynolds Road in the Southwyck Shopping Center area.

Don Monroe, the city's senior development specialist, told council the program would provide grants of up to one-third the cost of a facade improvement to a maximum of $5,000, and up to two-thirds the cost of sign improvements to a maximum of $10,000. The grants would be reimbursements after the work is done.

Mr. Monroe said the administration is asking to earmark $250,000 for the program, most of which would probably be spent in 2008, he said.

Councilman Joe McNamara said the city can't afford to offer grants that were not approved in the 2007 budget. "This is, in essence, deficit spending. This is money we don't have for a new program," he said.

Mr. Monroe said the program is important because it encourages new private-sector investment in a part of the city that has been declining.

The emphasis on Southwyck dovetails with two other initiatives from the mayor's office: a proposed $985,000 expenditure to improve the appearance of Reynolds between Glendale Avenue and Heatherdowns Boulevard and a proposed eminent domain of the shopping center to allow redevelopment of the increasingly vacant mall.



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