WALKER — Residents of the city can expect enhanced wireless communications reception, including cellular telephones, in the near future when small wireless facilities are installed in parts of the city.

The City Council, in a special meeting held Oct. 30, unanimously passed an ordinance that allows telecommunications companies to install the devices on city utility poles in the rights of way along streets and roads.

Berry Balfour, representing wireless communications companies, said at present, large cell towers in the area transmit wireless communications. She said, however, with the significant increase in the use of cellular communications, the need has arisen to improve wireless transmission equipment. She said the “small wireless facilities” will be placed on existing utility poles.

“You will hardly notice them," Balfour said of the new equipment, "but they will significantly improve the ability of communications companies to provide better service.”

The devices will only be installed in public rights-of-way.

At the same meeting, the council also unanimously approved a contract with Peart Enterprises Inc., of Eunice, to provide in-depth drug screening for employees of the city’s gas department. Jamie Etheridge, chief of operations for the city, said new state and federal regulations require employees who handle the transmission of natural gas to pass drug screening tests that are more rigorous than those given to other city employees.

Peart Enterprises can provide the testing necessary for the gas department employees, Etheridge said. The company also will maintain records of all testing and file proper reports with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and appropriate federal agencies, he said.

Councilman Gary Griffin questioned whether or not all city employees should be given the upgraded drug testing procedure. Etheridge said the cost of the advanced tests is prohibitive and that the existing city drug testing protocol for all employees is adequate.

 “I don’t want anyone to think that our current testing is inadequate. We just need the extra testing for gas department employees,” Council Clerk Myra Streeter added.

The council also approved a budget amendment that places $10,000 into the city budget as a line item for resolving small settlements the city has to pay from time to time. Councilman Richard Wales said the state auditor requires the item be placed in the budget and that small claims cannot be paid from the general fund.

Etheridge informed the council that the playing field at Challengers Field has been completed. Mayor Jimmy Watson said the completion of the field was Phase I of the project. Phase II will include the installation of bleachers and a pavilion with restrooms especially designed to serve the handicapped. The mayor said he anticipates the field will be dedicated sometime in the early spring.