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City Council Approves Cell Tower Lease For Bates Woods Park

Message Center Management revises agreement to bring more rent revenue into New London

The City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement Monday to install a cell tower in Bates Woods Park, with additional revenue expected due to revisions in the agreement.

The lease allows Message Center Management of Hartford to replace an existing 90-foot light pole at the Sal Amanti Field with a 115-foot tower, with possible additions adding 30 feet to the tower’s height. The lights would be incorporated into the new tower at the present height. MCM will lease 4,155 square feet of space at the park to build the tower and associated structures.

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The council tabled the item from their last meeting to further review the agreement. Several boards and departments—including the Parks and Recreation Commission, Planning and Zoning Commission, New London Fire Department, New London Police Department, and city attorneys—recommended approval prior to the City Council’s decision.

Councilor Adam Sprecace said he was initially concerned that the projected revenue was significantly less than that estimated for a cell tower proposed for Ocean Beach Park. MCM also pitched this project, which fell through following an agreement between New London and Waterford to improve emergency communications in the area. At the last meeting, MCM national sales manager Chris Gelinas said the revenues at Ocean Beach would have been greater since the tower would have been the only option for carriers wishing to provide coverage to that area.

Sprecace said he was satisfied with the explanation and that he had also assuaged his concerns that the proposal did not go out to bid. He said he found that companies often approach communities to negotiate cell tower proposals. Gelinas previously said AT&T requested a tower to improve coverage in the area of Bates Woods.

MCM also increased its base rent for the site from $1,600 a month to $1,800 a month, raising the annual rent revenue from $19,200 to $21,600.  The agreement has the company pay 25 percent of the revenue from the wireless carriers to the city, and Gelinas said in a memo that the rent increase brings the base revenue for the city up about $65,000 over the first 20-year lease period and $270,000 if all three 10-year lease extensions are used.

Initial estimates, based on having three to five carriers on the tower, placed the revenue to the city at between $825,000 and $1.1 million for the initial 20-year lease period and $3.5 million to $4.7 million over 50 years. Under the revised proposal, revenue estimates are $892,300 to $1,173,000 for the 20-year lease and $3,764,000 to $5 million for the 50-year period.

Gelinas said the tower will include New London and Waterford emergency frequencies to prevent interference from other signals. MCM has also offered to contribute up to $8,000 toward the installation of a new 40-foot flagpole at the field.

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