Citing an imminent loss of substantial revenues, Alton is now the third city in the Rio Grande Valley to sue the state of Texas over a senate bill that prohibits cities from charging telecommunications companies for putting transmitters in public rights-of-way.
During an Aug. 8 meeting, city commissioners unanimously voted to join the cities of McAllen and Pharr in suing the state over passage of Senate Bill 1004 to stop it from going into effect Sept. 1.
SB 1004 significantly restricts cities from regulating construction, development, and maintenance of network structures and wireless sites. It also prohibits cities from entering into franchise agreements with telecommunication companies for the use of public land or rights-of-way. SB 1004 requires cities to allow companies to install cell phone wireless nodes on utility poles, city light poles and other city rights of way.
Alton Mayor Salvador Vela said the city stands to lose around $100,000 per year because of SB 1004. Revenues from all governmental funds in fiscal year 2016-2017 were estimated to be $7.1 million, according to the city’s budget overview dated Sept. 27, 2016.
“Basically, with this resolution we’re saying we support what McAllen and Pharr are doing and protecting our city,” Vela said.
With the resolution, City Attorney Ricardo Gonzalez has been authorized to engage the services of the Austin-based law firm, Bickerstaff Heath Delgado & Acosta, the same law firm the cities of Pharr and McAllen are using.
“It’s not just about revenue being lost, it’s about how property that belongs to our citizens will be taken away from us and given over to big companies,” Gonzalez said. “It affects us and management of this easement. The state can’t take property away from someone and give it to someone else, that’s what they’re doing.”
Pharr City Manager Juan Guerre did not respond to a request for comment as of press time Wednesday, Aug. 9. McAllen’s Public Information Officer Xochitl Mora provided a statement dated July 11 saying that the potential loss of right-of-way fees to municipalities is estimated at $813 million annually, according to the Texas Municipal League.
“Any successful constitutional challenge on SB 1004 is going to require coordinated effort from every available Texas municipality,” McAllen City Attorney Kevin Pagan said in the release.