Common Council defers cell tower

At last night’s Finance Committee meeting, there was consideration given to the vacant land sale and leaseback agreement between the City of Kenosha and New Cingular Wireless PCS (NCWPCS).  A cell tower would be located on the property at 1613 Washington Road (behind the Time Warner Cable building).

Alderperson Anthony Nudo had a lot of questions and concerns about the leaseback agreement.  He said that conceptually, it’s okay, but there are several points in the lease that need review.  The generally-referenced documents were not included in his packet, and the survey was illegible.  He also felt the lease rate was below the market rate.  He asked for a deferral to allow time to review more completely.

Another point Nudo made was that, if the lessee leaves, they would take their personal property with them (not the foundation).  Nudo felt that it should be put back to 100%.  He stated that he was surprised that it was worded the way it was.  Claude Krawczyk, the NCWPCS attorney was present, and he stated that he had no problem complying with this point.  The parties agreed that the foundation would be removed down to 4 feet.  He handed Nudo the documents that he said he didn’t have, and said that Cingular Wireless would be sub-leasing space on the tower to other providers.  The city then leases the land to sub-tenants.

Based on city ordinance, the height restriction for cell towers on City-owned property is 150 feet maximum.  Cell towers on private property can only be 100 feet tall.  The agreement calls for the property to be deeded to the City.  The city then will lease the cell tower back to AT&T.  “Yes, it’s taken off the tax rolls.  But, the benefits far outweigh the negatives,” said Krawczyk.

Alderperson Tod Ohnstad, the alderperson of the district, gave his reasons for approval.  It expands the park by three acres, provides a revenue stream for the City (lease payments from both New Cingular Wireless and any other cell phone providers that may be added in the future), gets rid of a dilapidated old building (razing the existing structure), expands cellular communication for the city, and improves the livability of the citizenry.  He stated that none of his constituents had a problem with the cell tower.  “If it will help my smart phone be smarter, I’m all for it,” said Ohnstad.  “I see this as nothing but a win-win.”

Chairman David Bogdala stated that the water utility just had a similar agreement approved, and he didn’t feel that it was the market rate.  The city is receiving $2,000/month from AT&T, plus 18%.  Any other additional cell providers will also be paying a percentage (18%).  After 75 months on this particular lease, the city would receive $2,209/month.  Bogdala stated that he was “not in the business of approving contracts by faith.”  He also stated that he has gotten phone calls from the public in the surrounding neighborhood, expressing their concerns.  He stated that he was in favor of the deferral.

Alderperson Ted Ruffalo stated that he was excited to see this finally moving forward.  The Park Commission is also working on this.  The committee was informed that the Park Commission gave their approval at their meeting tonight.  The Finance Committee vote was 3 to 1 to approve the agreement (with Chairman David Bogdala voting nay and Alderperson Eric Haugaard abstaining).

At the Common Council meeting later that same evening, Alderperson Michael Orth made the following statement:  “The other day, we found that the new GPS technology for tracking snow plows didn’t work.  It was a tower issue.  We don’t want to stifle the build out of technology to the city.  If there are lease problems, let’s work them out.  To stonewall and delay would be unfortunate.”  Alderperson Ray Misner agreed.  “We have bad service on the south side.  We need these towers.”

Other alderpersons, including Nudo, G. John Ruffolo, and Anthony Kennedy had a lot of questions, and asked for a deferral for 30 days.  Orth asked Krawczyk whether or not a one-month deferral would give him any problems, and he said that it would not.  He needs to close the deal by March 1st.

It was disclosed that the city attorney’s office had the information on the lease since August.  Frank Pacetti, city administrator, was not present at either meeting.  Misner stated that the “agreement was at the administrative level for a long period of time, then dropped in our laps.”

At the Council meeting, the issue was deferred for 30 days by a vote of 8 to 6.  Those against the deferral were Alderpersons Ohnstad, David Prozanski, Patrick Juliana, Lawrence Green, Kennedy, and Orth.


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