Efforts to have a cell tower built in Anna Maria took a step forward June 12, when the city cell tower review committee met with representatives of three companies bidding on the project.
The committee was formed several months ago after Commissioner Gene Aubry called for revising the cell tower ordinance, saying it was too restrictive and no company had applied in the 11 years since the ordinance was established.
Aubry also suggested good cellphone service is a safety issue, as many cellphone users no longer have land lines and find it difficult to get a signal, particularly in the northern part of the city.
Consultant Rusty Monroe was retained to assist the city in revising the ordinance and the result was an amended ordinance, a request for proposals and the three bids.
The committee, chaired by building official Bob Welch with members Tom Aposporos, Jon Crane and former Mayor Mike Selby, reviewed the presentations from Vertex Development, Florida Towers Partners LLC and F&L Towers LLC.
The committee members asked questions pertaining to the length of the lease, revenue for the city as new carriers are added and what could be negotiated in the proposals.
Committee members will grade applicants in a number of areas, then submit their grades to Welch at a 3:30 p.m. meeting June 19. The committee will make a priority list and submit that to the city commission and city attorney Jim Dye.
The commission will make the final decision on any cell tower contract.
Each company presented an initial offering at the June 10 meeting, but also said they are open to negotiation.
Vertex offered a lump-sum payment to the city of $300,000 on an initial five-year lease with an option to extend the lease to 25 years. Vertex said it planned for a maximum of six carriers on its tower, and the lease could be renegotiated if four or more carriers added equipment to the tower. The renegotiated lease could give the city additional revenue as more carriers are added.
F&L Towers LLC, headed by Anna Maria property owner and attorney Stacey Frank, offered the city a lump sum of $400,000 on an initial 10-year lease, then subject to a 50-year extension. Frank said she was open to negotiating the lease and revenue stream as more carriers were added to the tower.
She said a fourth or fifth carrier would trigger renegotiations to give the city additional revenue. She also said any portion of her proposal could be negotiated with the city.
Florida Towers Partners offered a lump sum of $400,000, or a lump sum of $350,000 plus revenue sharing.
Each company proposed the design of the tower as a functioning flagpole to accommodate flying the U.S. flag on top.
The first carrier’s equipment would start at 90 feet on the flagpole and another carrier’s equipment placed every 10 feet to a maximum of six carriers on a 150-foot flagpole.
Carrier technology no longer requires hanging antenna such as the equipment at the Holmes Beach tower, but rather is wrapped around the flagpole and blends with the structure.
Each proposal requires an structure at the bottom of the pole for mechanical equipment to operate the tower. F&L Towers and Florida Towers proposed a 30-by-90-foot area 6 feet tall and a protective wall or fence enclosure.
The mechanical area would have a generator that would operate the tower in the event normal electrical service to the city is disrupted.
Kevin Burile of Florida Towers Partners said the revenue stream from the carriers could be sold by the cell tower owner to a third party under certain conditions.
Before a carrier will apply to have its equipment on a tower, the tower must be operating effectively, Burile said.
He said his company has worked with Bradenton Beach for construction of a cell tower.
Frank said her company has worked with Pasco and Hillsborough county school systems to build cell towers.
But the industry is changing with some carriers merging with others, she said.
Frank said a merger between two large cellphone carriers might reduce the number of carriers on the tower. She also said the DAS system, which uses small transmitter boxes to send signals, might become more popular.
Presently, DAS is a line-of-sight system that might not work well in Anna Maria because of its many trees and tree-lined streets, a study of DAS several years ago suggested.
Burile agreed the industry is changing rapidly. “It’s hard to predict the future, or where we might be in 10-20 years,” he said.
Committee members will meet again at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, and present their grades and ratings. Welch said he hopes to present the committee’s findings to the city commission for consideration June 27.