The City Council is considering whether to authorize Mayor Daryl Finizio to enter a lease agreement for the establishment of a communications tower at Bates Woods Park.
The issue is before the Education, Parks and Recreation Committee after the council unanimously referred it there at last week’s regular meeting. The item must be referred back to the council for a full vote before it can be approved or turned down.
The proposed lease agreement would replace a 90-foot light pole at Sal Amanti Field with a 115-foot tower, with possible expansions adding up to 30 more feet to the height. The lights on the existing pole at the baseball field would be relocated to the new tower, which would accommodate public safety antennas and up to five wireless carriers.
The lease would also allow Message Center Management of Hartford to lease 4,155 square feet of property in the park for the tower and associated structures, including an equipment shelter and generator. MCM would rent the property for $1,600 a month and pay 25 percent of the revenue collected from the tower.
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MCM formerly proposed a 140-foot communications tower at Ocean Beach Park, an idea that fizzled after some residents in the area complained that the tower would be aesthetically displeasing, inhibit property values, and be vulnerable to strong winds and other inclement weather. Like the Ocean Beach proposal, the Bates Woods tower aims to improve cell phone reception and emergency communications in New London. The city also sought to improve its emergency communications earlier this year through an agreement with Waterford to join that community’s emergency communications system and help pay the system’s maintenance costs, an annual expense of about $75,000.
The Bates Woods proposal has won the support of 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. A Department of Public Works memo states that the projected revenue from the 20-year lease would be $825,000 to $1.1 million, while a full lease term of 50 years could generate $3.5 million to $4.7 million. The memo also says MCM has agreed to contribute up to $8,000 for the installation of a new 40-foot flagpole at the field.
Finizio said in a letter to Eric Schneider, an area manager of real estate and construction for AT&T, that the tower would not inhibit aesthetics or safety at the site. He also said revenue from the tower could be used for park maintenance and provide a new location for T-Mobile antennae on the nearby New London High School if renovations or new construction take place there.
The lease would run for 20 years, with three 10-year renewal options. MCM would be responsible for construction costs, and plans call for ground structures and fencing at the site to be screened by evergreens.