Ambitious climate goals and expanding Bellingham’s cell coverage were the main points of interest at this weeks city council meeting on March 12.
Bellingham City Council discussed plans to implement small cell solutions to expand Bellingham’s cellular network.
Small cell solutions are used to expand cell phone coverage without building entirely new cell towers. These small technologies are planned to be placed on existing street signs, telephone and power polls, known as right-of-way infrastructure.
Council Member Gene Knutson led the recap discussion on small cells. Knutson said small cells will complement and improve the existing coverage in Bellingham and encouraged the council to approve the plan.
Jon Humphrey, a member of the Bellingham publicly owned fiber optic network, an activist group with the goal of implementing more fiber networks, expressed to the council his dissatisfaction with the city’s plan to implement small cells without the use of fiber optic technologies.
“Small cells will help make the network more reliable, but they will never be as reliable as fiber,” Humphrey said.
Fiber optics are glass or plastic threads that are used to transmit data rather than metal cables. The benefit of fiber is that it expands bandwidth, but it comes with a higher price tag.
The staff for Public Works and Natural Resources will be bringing code changes to the City Council within the next couple of months, Knutson said.
Among other items discussed at the meeting was the city’s climate action plan update. The resolution aims to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions produced in the city.
Lynn Murphy, an employee of Puget Sound Energy, voiced her concern that the resolution’s goals are unrealistic.
Puget Sound Energy is concerned that the climate action plan’s goal to adopt 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2030 is not attainable, according to Murphy.
Council members discussed the plan update earlier in the day and, because of lack of clear wording around the goals, have decided to postpone implementing the update until edits have been completed.
Council member Pinky Vargas said the council will be making slight changes to the plan to clarify that these are goals the city aspires to, not that they believe are immediately achievable.
The council also heard from the Bellingham Police Department on its strategic plan. The plan intends to form a compact of expectations and commitments by and between the departments, city leaders and the public, council member Gene Knutson said.
“This plan is organized around six strategic decision-making commitments. First, and it has to be the most important, is safety first, safety of the public and of the officers,” Knutson said.
Knutson encouraged Bellingham citizens to read the plan online to understand Bellingham Police Department’s commitments to the city. Knutson also invited the public to hear the police department’s second presentation of the plan at the next city council meeting on March 26.