Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2003

Council puts AT&T cell tower on call waiting

Ballfields no place for cell tower, leaders say

August 7, 2003

AT&T got a busy signal last month when the Eudora City Council heeded the Planning Commission's recommendation to prevent the phone company from leasing space for a cellular tower at the city's ballpark near Kansas Highway 10.
Although Council member Dan Gregg voted in support of leasing the space, other Council members expressed the sentiments that the city's "signature" park and recreation area was not the place for a phone tower.
"I've been a stickler for keeping K-10 clean," Council member Rex Burkhardt said, referring to his opposition to billboards along the highway. "I feel like I'd be a hypocrite if I said it was OK to put the tower there."
And rightly so, teased fellow Council member Tom Pyle, who is in favor of more lenient signage restrictions. Pyle said he understood cellular phone towers were a necessity in a world where many people used them, but not necessary enough to place in an area with residences and parks nearby.
Residents don't want a cellular tower in their back yard, said Mayor Ron Conner, and a spot near the ballfields along K-10 was the city's front yard. Council member Don Durkin agreed, saying he didn't care where a cellular tower would go, but that it didn't belong at the ballpark.
Bob Herlihy, who conducted a site search for AT&T, said in addition to meeting the logistics governing the tower's viability in covering the area, the site near the ballpark seemed a good fit. The land was near commercial development on Church Street, as well as near the tall ballpark lights, against which he said a 190-foot mono-pole tower wouldn't stand out as much.
Nearby businesses already blanket the area's streets in light at night, Herlihy said.
"I don't see how that is going to detract from the visual scene day-to-day," he said. "People don't drive around looking up 190 feet into the air."
Moreover, he said, people are used to seeing other necessary but sometimes-unsightly objects, like railroad tracks and highway lights.
Yet the facet Council member Scott Hopson took issue with was what could have been the lease agreement with the city. AT&T's initial offering would have been $500 per month, but Hopson asked Herlihy why the company would pay another cellular company three times that amount to co-locate on their tower.
"Why give Eudora just $500?" Hopson asked.
Herlihy said in the market different towers were considered to have different values, some worth more than others. Moreover, in Eudora it would be AT&T bearing the brunt of construction costs rather than another cmopany. Herlihy said AT&T could pay Eudora $600 per month instead, although if the plan was approved, lease agreements would have taken place in a separate process.
Each lease would be five years long, renewable up to five times. But if the Kansas Department of Transportation were to alter the highway's route, thus cutting into the land where the ballparks are and where the tower would be, a 30-year relationship between AT&T and the city would be cut short. How and if the city would have been compensated for what remained of the tenure would have been an issue for lease negotiations. However, not considering that possibility was misleading to Hopson.
"You can't use $300,000 as bait," he said.
Despite urging from the city and a suggestion from the Eudora school district to look at a location south of the highway, Herlihy said if another site were possible it would likely be north of the proposed site. After the Council voted, Herlihy indicated he might approach the city again at a later date.

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