Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

City to utilize Facebook, adds 5G wireless policy

Keith Vandervort
Posted 4/4/19

ELY – A social media presence could be coming to the city of Ely. Council members here this week gave the go-ahead for staff to develop a Facebook page and a corresponding policy based on existing …

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City to utilize Facebook, adds 5G wireless policy

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ELY – A social media presence could be coming to the city of Ely. Council members here this week gave the go-ahead for staff to develop a Facebook page and a corresponding policy based on existing guidelines established by the League of Minnesota Cities.

Council member Heidi Omerza apparently met with staff prior to the Tuesday council meeting to discuss the issue and then asked the council to approve moving forward with her idea.

“I would like to promote a city Facebook page where we just present information, and not have responses,” Omerza said in floating the idea. She indicated that staff time utilized for the added responsibility would fall under the employee handbook. “We can use the League’s digital policy for how to handle this from the city’s side.”

She suggested a policy draft could be presented at the next regular meeting of the council for members to consider.

Omerza’s idea is for the city of Ely to post reminders and immediate news items, such as the dates of the upcoming spring clean-up days, city office hours, etc. “There would be nothing controversial, but informational only,” she said.

Mayor Chuck Novak agreed that having a comment capability “would be risky at best.” He referred to much of social media as “anti-social” media. “People feel like you can’t see them so they can say what they want,” Novak said.

“With just 3.5 employees here, staff can’t be responding to every comment that comes in on social media,” he added.

Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski touted the immediacy of posting information and updates to Facebook. “It is so much easier for the administrator to add information, than on the website,” he said. “If there is a project, or an emergency going on, we can put that information up immediately to notify people that intersections may be closed or service will be interrupted.”

Langowski admitted that he has been reluctant to embrace Facebook for the city’s purposes. “Other departments within the city are utilizing Facebook, like the library, Police Department and Fire Department, and it has been working well to disseminate information. We can still use the radio stations and newspapers and our website, but for more immediate issues, this is the way to go.”

Council member Paul Kess commented that he thinks Facebook is not as popular as it once was, except with older people. “I don’t think my son even uses Facebook,” he said.

“There’s more people on Facebook than you’d think,” Langowski answered.

A city social media policy could be ready to discuss at the next regular council meeting.

New policy for

5G wireless

In an eleventh-hour move this week, council members approved a public right-of-way policy covering small wireless facility aesthetic requirements and construction criteria just ahead of the federal deadline of mid-April.

City officials became aware of the issue just this week through the League of Minnesota Cities. “If we don’t have a policy in place by April 15, thou shalt never have a policy,” Novak said. “That’s the way its written through the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) regulations.”

Langowski explained that the policy covers new 5G wireless connection technology that requires many small antennas to be installed in close proximity to each other on utility poles, street lights, buildings, trees, stop signs or any other stationary object, in order to maintain a 5G wireless connection.

“I’ve seen what some of these antennas could look like, and they are extremely ugly,” he said. “So we’ll have (a policy) in place. Thanks to the League and the mayor for noticing this (deadline) and jumping on it right way so we have a policy in place. It’s a no-brainer. We want (the antennas) to match our streetlights. We don’t want to add more visual pollution. Whether or not 5G ever makes it here, its good to be prepared.”

Novak noted that without a policy in place by the city, providers could install 5G wireless antennas on poles or anywhere they want. “If we move a pole, we could have a dead pole sitting there with a 5G wireless antenna sitting on it. At least this (policy) gives us some say in the matter.”

Other business

In other business, the council:

Heard from League of Minnesota Cities staff who traveled to Ely to personally thank council member Heidi Omerza for her service as president of the organization that represents 800 municipalities across the state.

Authorized the mayor to attend the Minnesota Mayors Association Annual Conference, April 26-27, in Stillwater.

Granted permission to Library Director Rachel Heinrich to establish a new wireless provider and improved service for the library.

Approved the sale of a lot in the East Spaulding Plat to Andy and Paula Hill;

Accepted the resignation of Rebecca Reiss from the Library Board and agreed to advertise for a replacement.

Awarded the Voyageur ATV trail construction bid to George Bougalis and Sons Co. for $1,260,360, contingent upon receiving the Department of Natural Resources Public Waters Permit.

Adopted a resolution authorizing the Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club to sell pull tabs at Dee’s Bar.

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