A city grants permission for a state agency to build an emergency communications tower on its property. The state hires a contractor to build the tower. The contractor makes a mistake, causing permanent damage to public natural resources and costing the city thousands of dollars. Who’s to blame? The contractor for causing the damage? The state for hiring a contractor who caused the damage? Or the city for giving the state permission to build a tower on its property? All of them?
This scenario — with many more intricacies and twists and turns — has been playing out in Iowa Falls for two and a half years. In April 2017, the State of Iowa approached the city to ask for permission to build the tower. At 425 feet, and perched atop a bluff in town, the state said it was a perfect location to connect the Iowa Falls tower with 91 other similar towers across the state, forming a network that would ensure communication between first responders in the event of natural or manmade disasters. As a bonus, the Iowa Department of Public Safety told the City, the local police, fire and other responders could put their own communication equipment on the tower, too — free of charge! The City, wanting to help the state and emergency communications (and wanting a place for its own equipment) granted permission.