The city is poised to cut a deal with Pocket Communications that would bring $500,000 to the water department over the next two decades.
Water Superintendent Rob Longo said Friday that in return for letting the cellular phone provider install a half dozen small antennas on a Chippens Hill water tank, the city would rack up $500,000 during the next 20 years
City Councilor Cliff Block said it’s a great opportunity for the city, an opportunity that an administrative hang-up put in jeopardy.
Back in May, the Water Board asked the Planning Commission for its blessing for the contract, a state-mandated requirement before signing a deal. Planners agreed without much hesitation, said Bill Veits, the board’s chairman.
But when the deal came before the City Council, lawyers said there had been a glitch: the council itself had to make the request of the Planning Commission, a formality that had been overlooked.
“We have a chance to lose this money,” Block warned colleagues.
So Veits called a special meeting of the planning panel last Friday that once again gave a green light to the deal.
Now it can get the backing of the council so the mayor can pen his signature on the contract.
Longo said it’s crucial for the city to move fast because Pocket is anxious to install the antennas soon to improve its phone coverage in town.
“Pocket needs to act quick on this,” Longo said.
He said the company plans to install the equipment as soon as the city makes the deal final.
The water tank already has large city antennas on it as well as one for amateur radio. Longo said most people won’t even notice the new ones because they are comparatively small.
Longo said the city has Sprint PCS antennas on its Stevens Street tank.
He said that water companies across the nation are supplementing their ratepayers by renting space for antennas on water towers.
“It’s common practice in the water industry,” Longo said.
City Councilor Craig Minor said the city needs to adopt a policy about planning referrals so that they are done in a timely, correct fashion.
The Planning Commission can’t block a deal, but if it opposes something, the council needs a two-thirds vote to overcome its objection.
Thata scenario that most recently arose when planners blocked a proposed school site in a West End gravel pit . The council’s narrow majority in favor couldn’t muster enough backing to push through the location, requiring officials to find another spot.
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