New Albany is one of 50 cities participating in legal action against Senate Bill 331.

The Ohio bill, among other things, includes an amendment allowing utility companies to install "small-cell wireless" nodes to street signs and traffic lights within cities' public rights of way.

New Albany City Manager Joe Stefanov said his main concern with SB 331 is its infringement on home rule.

A microcell tower already has appeared on Central College Road, Stefanov said.

The city doesn't know who was responsible for the tower but plans to take it down, he said.

"It just showed up one day," he said.

Although Stefanov said he is concerned about conflicts arising from multiple utility companies vying for tower locations, he expressed support for mobile-phone technology in general.

"We want the cell service for our residents," Stefanov said.

Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel agreed, saying the city of Dublin is pro-broadband infrastructure.

"It's not an anti-technology statement," McDaniel said of the legal action.

Dublin and New Albany are part of the Central Ohio Mayors and Managers Association, also known as COMMA, which includes Bexley, Canal Winchester, Columbus, Delaware, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Grove City, Hilliard, Pickerington, Powell, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Westerville, Whitehall and Worthington.

The Ice Miller law firm in Columbus filed a complaint March 20 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against SB 331 on behalf of 50 cities, including Akron and cities from COMMA and the Greater Dayton Mayors and Managers Association.

Stefanov said the participating cities' legal fees are based on their respective populations.

New Albany will pay about $2,000, he said, a retainer rate based on legal action through the common-pleas court. If the suit should go through another court system, New Albany could be charged a different fee, he said.

McDaniel said he expects Dublin will pay a legal retainer fee of $6,000.

In addition to the Franklin County filing, another 20 cities and villages in northeastern Ohio filed an action against SB 331 in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

SB 331 was introduced in May 2016.

It originally received support from Chillicothe-based Petland because it would overrule city-level laws attempting to specify where pet stores could purchase puppies.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), was written largely in response to an ordinance Grove City adopted in March 2016, requiring retailers to acquire the pets they sell from animal shelters, rescues and humane societies.

By the time the bill was signed into law in December by Gov. John Kasich, it had become an omnibus bill that included an amendment added during the Senate's lame-duck session.

That amendment gave utility companies full rein to install "small-cell wireless" nodes to such structures as street signs and traffic lights within cities' public rights of way.

When such structures are not present, the bill allows companies to install a tower, similar to a telephone pole, for infrastructure.

The small-cell wireless amendment, which was backed by AT&T, quickly drew responses from several central Ohio city leaders, including several that pledged support for legal action against the bill in recent months.

COMMA members have described SB 331 as "legislation COMMA believes violates the Ohio Constitution and threatens the principle of home rule."

ThisWeek reporter Andrew King contributed to this story.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah