Ask ELi: Cell Phone Mini-Towers, Dirty Drinking Water, and Bike Racks

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Contributed by an ELi Reader

A picture of a cell phone tower under construction.

In this edition of the “Ask ELi to Investigate” grab bag, we get to the bottom of questions our readers submitted recently. What’s with those cell phone towers popping up in residential neighborhoods, dirty water coming from faucets in the Glencairn neighborhood, and a closed bike rack near the downtown Marriott? We answer all this plus one bonus-round question!

We start with questions about the new cell phone towers, since two readers wrote in about that.

One reader asked, “It looks like one of the carriers is starting to install small cell phone towers. I took a photo of one of the installations at the corner of Kenberry and Old Canton…It would nice to know who the carrier is, and where they are all going, and what people can do if they don’t want one on their lawn.”

Another reader wrote in, saying, “I remember you doing an article about the cell phone towers at the end of Kedzie.  I see three towers going up now along nearby streets. Is that what the black metal structures are? How will they impact the local area?”

ELi first found out about plans for a cell tower being erected near Kedzie St. and Grand River Alley in November 2020 after a reader alerted us to a notice in Ingham County Legal News.

Now it seems that the tower is being built, along with several others. Here’s what we found out from Nicole McPherson, Engineering Administrator for the City of East Lansing’s Department of Public Works.

The structures are “pole[s] for small cell equipment” being installed by Verizon Wireless. They are sprouting up at the following intersections:

  • Lexington Avenue at Old Canton Lane
  • Gunson Street at Grand River Alley
  • Kedzie Street at Grand River Alley
  • Stoddard Avenue, north of Grand River Avenue
  • Collingwood Drive at Grand River Alley

According to McPherson, all the poles are being installed in the City’s right-of-way (which is public land) and not on private property. “The City doesn’t have the [legal] ability to deny these installations, but is able to verify they comply with the regulations,” wrote McPherson to ELi.

Contributed by an ELi Reader.

A cell tower in East Lansing.

The City has a small cell ordinance to ensure structures comply with state law. They cannot exceed 40 feet in height without a special use permit.

Why were some houses in the Glencairn neighborhood turning on their faucets and finding brown water with no warning from the City? And what should you do if you find yourself in a similar situation?

A reader sent us the picture of their tap running brown water and expressed frustration that they had received no warning about the possibility from the City.

Contributed by an ELi Reader.

Brown water running from a reader’s tap in the Glencairn neighborhood.

We reached out to the City’s Communications Coordinator Mikell Frey to find out the cause and provide advice to our reader. She passed our questions on to the Department of Public Works (DPW).

That’s how we learned that the brown water was caused by construction. “A water main is being installed in the area and a valve needed to be unexpectedly turned off for that work, which caused the temporary discoloration of the water,” wrote a representative from DPW.

“[D]iscolored water is safe and does not pose a health concern,” according to DPW.

Usually advance notice is given over Nixle text and email alerts and through a press release. No notice was given due to the unexpected nature of turning off the valve in this project.

But here is what DPW recommends you do if you turn on the tap and see discolored water:

  • Notify DPW immediately by calling (517) 337-9459 (during work hours) or calling ELPD at (517) 351-4220 (after hours).
  • Run cold water through a non-aerated faucet (like a bathtub) until the water is clear. This can take 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Avoid doing laundry or other projects where discolored water may cause a problem.
  • Avoid using hot water until cold water is running clear, so that the discolored water does not enter your water heater.
A bike rack by artist Todd Kime, now installed at East Lansing’s downtown Marriott hotel.

Another reader asked, “We wonder why the cute red bike rack that resembles a fuel pump in front of the Marriott is surrounded by caution tape?  I thought that maybe someone was repairing it, but doesn’t seem broken, and the caution has been there for a long time, at least 2 months. It’s my favorite bike rack, and I can’t be the only one that misses using it.”

The reader is referring to the rack shown above, created by artist Todd Kime as part of a special project in 2014 to bring artistic bike racks to downtown.

To get our reader’s question answered, the City’s Communications Coordinator reached out to DPW and told ELi, “The area was roped off for safety due to some settlement in the area. DPW is currently working on next steps to address what is occurring at that location.”

Finally, one reader wrote in to ask who owns the parking lot along Grove Street that Harper’s wants to convert to a seating area, potentially with food trucks and an outdoor bar.

The reader was responding to our recent story about that proposal from Harper’s. We checked the tax assessor records to figure this out and discovered that the parking lot, just south of Seams fabric store, is actually part of the Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub property, which has the address of 131 Albert Ave. Here’s a reproduced image of the lot from the East Lansing tax assessor’s office:

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