A bill in the legislature would override a decision that has blocked construction of a cell phone tower in the northeast corner of Iowa that would become part of a national network supporting first responders. The Allamakee County Board of Adjustment rejected the permit for a proposed tower southwest of New Albin.

“There were alternate locations we felt that would have probably been approved,” said Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Tom Blake.

A property owner had given Northeast IowaTelephone Company permission to erect a 190-foot-tall cell phone tower on his land. Blake said the tower would partially obstruct a neighbor’s view of the Mississippi River Valley.

“It’d be on one of those bluff promontories just to the left as you’re traveling north on the Great River Road,” Blake said.

The tower near New Albin would be leased by AT&T and become part of the company’s national communications system called FirstNet. It gives cell phone calls from first responders like police and fire fighters priority in emergencies, when cell phone towers are often jammed with traffic. Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the Allamakee County Board’s decision doesn’t square with a state law designed to expand cell phone service.

“The reason for denial was due to the siting being ‘obnoxious and offensive,'” Mathis said during a committee meeting Thursday. “…According to law, that is not a reason for denial of tower siting.”

Mathis said setting up a national network for first responders using cell phones is a priority issue and her initial thought was this dispute should be resolved in court.

“But by going to district court it is going to lengthen the time that they’re able to reach their ultimate goal,” Mathis said, “so for that reason, I’m going to urge people to vote for this bill.”

The bill has cleared the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Public Safety Committee, so it is eligible for debate in the House and the Senate. The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors has sent lawmakers a letter stating their opposition to the bill.