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DATE: March 2, 2004
Contact Person: Sue Schaefer, Information Officer

Contact Phone: 605-773-3201

Water Tower Bill Will Provide More Locations for Cell Sites

A new law will help municipalities attract cell phone and wireless services to their communities. Senate Bill 160, recently signed by Governor Rounds, will allow the placing of telecommunications equipment on water towers located in city parks.

"We are working hard to encourage wireless providers to enhance cell phone services in South Dakota, particularly in small towns and rural areas," say Public Utilities Commission Chairman Bob Sahr and Vice Chairman Gary Hanson. "The new law will also help us deploy other new, cutting-edge technologies and improve our existing public safety networks."

Representative Joel Dykstra, R-Canton, who was a prime sponsor on the bill, agreed the bill was a positive proposition. "Economic development statewide depends on access to technology and communications, and in order for our rural communities to prosper, cell coverage will be critical. The ability of those communities to utilize the investment they have already made in existing towers and structures will greatly aid their ability to attract cell coverage without the hurdle of extra capital investment needed to build new towers where some suitable structure is available."

Yvonne Taylor, Executive Director of the South Dakota Municipal League, had nothing but praise for everyone who worked hard to bring this legislation to fruition. "Bottom line, our legislators, SD Public Utilities Commission and the wireless providers all care about the betterment of South Dakota cities and counties. That is obvious by the fact that they met this problem head-on and found an excellent remedy. We can now look forward to enhanced services and the potential for increased revenues."

Senator Ken Albers, R-Canton, also a prime sponsor, is pleased the bill met with no resistance in the Senate or House. "People know good legislation when they see it. Being a former Sheriff, I am encouraged by the impact this bill will have on public safety," he said. "It's so great to have a piece of legislation that works for everyone."

The bill was introduced by Senator Albers and Representative Dykstra in response to a technicality in current state law that allows only park-related uses of park land, and therefore prevents the placement of communications equipment on top of city water towers.

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