By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

The seeds for a franchise fee on wireless telecommunications companies – a cost that could be passed on to customers – were sown Monday.

The Keizer City Council opted in a 6-1 vote to give themselves authority to establish a franchise fee primarily targeting wireless communications companies, i.e. cell phone service providers. The stated reason was to recover some of the costs associated with providing 911 service to residents, along with radio communications and an area-wide records system for police officers.

Because the vote was not unanimous the matter will go before the council again for a second reading.

Councilors will also have to pass a resolution setting the amount. City Manager Chris Eppley has proposed 3 percent. A third of that would be sent to the Keizer Fire District. This could come before the Council as soon as its first December meeting.

A packed house showed up, mostly speaking against the proposal. Brian Butler and Darsy Olafson, respective presidents of the Keizer Professional Firefighters and the Keizer Police Association, spoke up in favor, along with several other residents. Representatives from Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Qwest spoke of potential problems with the ordinance as written.

Voting in favor were: Mayor Lore Christopher and Councilors Cathy Clark, Mark Caillier, Jim Taylor, Richard Walsh and Brandon Smith. Voting against was Councilor David McKane.

Several residents reported hearing automated calls urging them to speak against the idea. The Keizertimes has obtained full audio of one and a portion of another.

One is from Americans for Prosperity’s Oregon chapter:

AFP Call

Another, whose sponsor was not revealed in the portion of the message we obtained, polled residents on whether they supported a “1,500 percent” increase in cell phone taxes.

Survey

At the same meeting councilors chose not to adopt a proposed ballot measure that would restrict big box stores over 65,000 square feet to Keizer Station’s Area A. That means it will appear on a March special election ballot.