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Anna Maria cell tower bids come under review

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria’s cell tower committee met May 29 to review the three responses to the city’s request for proposals to build a cell tower on city property.

Building official Bob Welch chaired the meeting.

Welch previously reviewed the submittals, but committee members got their first look at the three proposals. One came from Ridan Industries of Sarasota, another from Vortex Inc., and a third from F&L LLC, a Tampa company owned by Anna Maria property owner and attorney Stacey Frank.

Most of the discussion centered around the height of the proposed towers and the payments offered.

Ridan Industries and F&L offered the city lump sum payments of $350,000 to build a tower. Vortex offered a percentage of its net profit.

Ridan sweetened its offer when representative Jim Eatrides, who attended the meeting, said the company also would offer a share of the profits to the city. The details could be worked out in negotiations, he said.

Only Ridan was represented at the meeting.

Committee members Tom Aposporos, a former city commissioner, and former Mayor Mike Selby were concerned about what company would actually sign the lease with the city. Each company has various entities operating that would handle construction and other phases.

Selby wanted to ensure that the company submitting the RFP would be the company signing the lease.

Another issue was height. Eatrides said the minimum height would be 90 feet for one cell carrier, while the maximum would be 150 feet if four or more carriers use the tower.

As an example, he said the Holmes Beach cell tower in the 5900 block of Marina Drive is 150 feet high. As the novelty wore off, Eatrides said, people hardly noticed the tower.

He said that with consolidations, mergers and buy-outs of cellular companies, he anticipated no more than four companies would share a tower in Anna Maria.

Welch said the city would like the tower at city hall, but it’s ultimately up to the commission. He said a cell tower at city hall would not interfere with the shuffleboard court or the horseshoe pits.

Members Tom Crane, Aposporos and Selby agreed to email any questions they have on the RFPs to Welch, who will solicit answers.

The committee will next meet at 2:30 p.m. Monday, June 10, to discuss their inquiries and to prioritize the three companies for presentations to the city commission at its June 13 meeting.

Welch said the committee needs to know from the commission if it wants the committee to negotiate the lease, or if the commission prefers to undertake the negotiations. In any event, city attorney Jim Dye would need to be present for negotiations, Welch said.

Although the city established its cell tower ordinance in 2002, no companies applied to construct a tower until earlier this year, after consultant Rusty Monroe rewrote the city’s ordinance and requirements for a tower.

Originally, the three companies had placed bids with the Anna Maria Island Community Center, but the center property is leased by the city to the nonprofit. When the center asked to amend its lease to accommodate a tower, commissioners opted for a tower at city hall.

Commissioner Gene Aubry resparked a call for a cell tower, citing the safety issue of not being able to get through to 911 in an emergency situation.

Welch recalled an incident several years ago involving a shark bite when efforts to reach 911 using a cell phone in north Anna Maria were unsuccessful because cell service was unavailable.

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