Consulting Company Tries to “Save” Orange County Cities from Vetoed Bill

Irvine-based 5 Bars Communities won contracts with at least three Orange County cities – Irvine, Placentia, and Lake Forest – claiming it can protect them from the recently vetoed SB649, reported Voice of OC. The effort in Orange County to win city contracts was led, in part, by Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon, a former 5 Bars executive.

According to 5 Bars supporters, even though SB649 was vetoed on October 15, by Gov. Jerry Brown, it could be reintroduced next year. Proponents of the 5 Bars contracts also contend the agreements protect cities from having wireless companies put the transmitters wherever they want. However, the flip side shows that while the vetoed bill wouldn’t have affected contracts entered into with “wireless service providers” prior to the bill becoming law, it didn’t mention contracts with wireless marketers.

Additionally, some city staff members are skeptical, and said 5 Bars didn’t offer anything that the cities couldn’t do on their own. According to Mission Viejo City Attorney Bill Curley, no contract could have protected cities if the bill became law. “Even if we would have had 5 Bars or [another firm], it doesn’t matter,” he said. “None of us could’ve stopped” the bill’s impact, he added. “We could have politely asked [wireless companies], but if push came to shove, they would have won,” said Curley. 

In addition to Irvine, Placentia and Lake Forest, 5 Bars has similar contracts with Twentynine Palms, Fresno, and Palm Springs. Plus, a contract signed last year between Sacramento and 5 Bars gives the city two percent of the monthly gross revenue from all cities across the state that have contracts with the company.

From a financial standpoint, 5 Bars doesn’t ask cities for payment up front; rather, it receives 35 percent of the yearly revenue from all new wireless infrastructure installations and 25 percent on additions to existing infrastructure, according to contracts signed between 5 Bars and Irvine, Placentia and Lake Forest. The cities entered into five-year contracts with the firm that include four renewal periods of five years each; those could lead to a potential 25-year contract for the company, reported Voice of OC.

When it comes to the implementation plan, 5 Bars hasn’t publicly said how exactly the protections from SB649, if passed, will work. 5 Bars is a member of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, a national lobbying group for the wireless industry, which was a major sponsor of SB649.

November 13, 2017               

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