After weeks of meetings between an Anna Maria cell tower committee and three prospective cell tower providers, the city commission June 27 voted to negotiate with Ridan Industries.
The committee recommended Ridan, but it was a close contest between Ridan and F&L towers. The committee, led by building official Bob Welch, also recommended that both companies conduct a presentation to commissioners before a final vote.
“It was that close,” said Welch, who said Ridan was recommended based on it receiving two first-place votes and two second-place votes.
F&L received two first-place votes, one second-place vote and a third-place vote, but scored higher than Ridan by five points in the committee’s overall grading system.
Welch said the city’s request for proposal is structured in such a way that if negotiations stall with a selected company, new negotiations can begin with the next highest scorer, “Or we can simply start over.”
The committee suggested commissioners negotiate with both companies to extract the best deal possible for the city, but city attorney Jim Dye disagreed with that advice.
“That can get complicated,” said Dye. “I would not recommend you enter into two negotiations.”
Dye said the process of leasing the land then undergoing the permit process is a lengthy one and doubling the negotiations and allowing further presentations would only serve to delay the process.
Commissioner Gene Aubry said further delays were unacceptable.
“I remember bringing up this subject forever ago,” he said. “We have appointed three competent people to consider proposals and I count on that committee. Delaying this is typical Anna Maria business as usual. We did what we were going to do, and let’s not sit around and go from one workshop to another.”
Aubry moved to enter into negotiations with the committee’s top recommendation of Ridan. Commissioner Nancy Yetter seconded the motion but, during discussion, a Ridan representative asked to speak.
Since a motion was made before opening public comment, Dye said the commission would have to rescind the motion in order to allow public comment.
The motion was rescinded, which opened the floor for F&L president Stacy Frank, an island resident, to make an argument for her company.
Frank said she didn’t agree with the outcome of the committee and asked the commission to delay the vote.
“I understand this has to move forward, but it has to move forward in the best way possible,” she said.
Frank suggested with a little more inquiry, “you’ll be more comfortable with your decision.”
Frank’s speech prompted public comment in favor of F&L. Aubry and Yetter asked the committee members if they were confident in their selection of Ridan.
The members reiterated that it was close and that all three companies submitted good proposals.
Aubry moved again to negotiate with Ridan, but the motion died for a lack of a second.
Yetter wanted further comment from committee members, who ultimately said they were confident in Ridan as their first choice.
Aubry again moved to negotiate with Ridan. Yetter seconded the motion, which passed 4-0. Commissioner Chuck Webb was absent.
Negotiations will encompass two steps. The first part will be a land-lease agreement, which entails location and lease fees.
The cell tower phase is more complicated and lengthy in obtaining construction permits for a yet-to-be determined tower structure and the technology that will be required to best serve the area.
If the city and Ridan negotiations are unsuccessful, the city reserves the right to end the talks and negotiations then would begin with F&L or the RFP process could be repeated.