By Jenna O’Donnell |
LITTLE SILVER — Verizon does not plan to move a contested cell tower from behind borough hall – but a special counsel retained by the borough said that representatives from the company are willing have discussions with the community on how it might be improved.
Kevin N. Starkey, a Brick-based attorney hired last month to handle all matters related to the 95-foot cell tower installed by Verizon in May, attended the Aug. 7 borough council regular meeting to update residents and officials on a meeting with the provider.
“We said we’d like you to move the tower,” Starkey said. “The answer was no.”
Starkey said Verizon officials added, “We have too much invested in this.”
Starkey went on to share some other requests made to Verizon, including that no other carriers would be added to the current monopole – which has room for three more – and that all of the six Verizon nodes currently atop the tower will remain facing away from nearby Markham Place School. While Verizon representatives told him that they had no role in the addition of other carriers to the cell tower, they could not agree to keep nodes faced in a certain direction, he said, as they move depending on coverage needs.
“We also asked if we could redesign the tower to make it look nicer,” Starkey said, noting that Verizon had told him the platform could be removed – a change that would cost an estimated $45,000 to $50,000.
In anticipation of possible legal and engineering expenses related to the cell tower, the council passed an emergency resolution appropriation of $75,000 at the start of the Aug. 7 meeting.
Several residents were skeptical that there was a point to setting aside those legal fees, given that the tower is unlikely to be removed. “What’s the point?” one resident wanted to know.
Another resident, Christopher Healey, asked what the borough could really do to prevent other carriers from putting equipment on the tower, given the sweeping rights granted to telecom companies from the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
“Don’t other carriers have the same exact ability as Verizon to come and say ‘I want this here’?”
Starkey acknowledged that possibility as towns cannot bar telecommunications companies from having coverage, but said that most carriers — meeting resistance — would find another location for equipment.
“They don’t come to town wanting to fight,” he said.
Another resident wanted to know about buying out the 25-year lease that Verizon currently holds with the borough, after funding its installation to replace an aging communications tower used by police and emergency services.
That could prove costly, and ultimately senseless, according to Councilman Daniel J. O’Hern.
“If there was a buyout, they would probably come back to town,” he said. “We would spend all that money and end up with a tower anyway.”
This article was first published in the August 10-17, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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