Wednesday Jun 13 2012
Recreation District tower easement worth 200K?
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Unison contract too restrictive, board says
The Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District board voted not to move forward with a $200,000 easement deal of a cell tower with Unison, but may pursue deals with other companies through a consultant. The cell tower, located on a light tower at James Field, is currently being utilized by Sprint Nextel for $22,752 a year, according to Joe Fecko, administrative services manager. Fecko said the district considered a proposal by Unison, a national cell site management company, that originated in 2009 because it would have received a $200,000 payment up-front in exchange for easement of the tower. It also wouldn?t be liable if Sprint cancelled its contract with the district because Unison would manage the Sprint contract. The Sprint deal has another 13 years under contract, which totals $295,776 in revenue to the district. The money from the tower easement currently goes into the district?s general fund. ?These agreements allow Sprint to cancel with 90 days notice,? Fecko said. ?They (Unison) take on the risk of losing the customer and we keep the cash.? After several years of negotiations regarding the contract, the board ultimately decided against contracting with Unison. A third party consultant may be utilized to find potential customers for the cell tower, according to Curt Smith, a member of the board of directors. He said while Unison was professional, the terms of the contract were too restrictive for the district. ?It became just too convoluted dealing with Unison,? Smith said. ?We decided as a board to stop that and be done with it and explore having a consultant.? The consultant would basically act as a broker by finding customers for the tower and negotiating the best deal for the district, according to Fecko. Among the board?s contentions with the Unison contract where their stipulations that the district couldn?t lease other towers within a certain distance of the James Field Tower. Smith said the board hasn?t committed to any particular consultant yet and has asked district staff to look at various options. The board is not in a hurry to enter into another contract for the tower and wants to thoroughly vet its options, he added. ?I am concerned about what we have to concede to get somebody to sign an easement agreement with us,? Smith said. ?In the past ARD boards have signed leases with organizations that now have some of our property tied up and we can?t do anything with it for 50 years. To me it?s not something to take lightly.? Scott Holbrook, a member of the board of directors, said after considering all factors he agreed the Unison deal wasn?t in the best interest of the community. ?We have to come up with something that is going to protect the best interest of the customers, the community,? Holbrook said. ?That deal just didn?t feel right and I don?t think it would have been the best.? He added that the tower is a resource the district is already using to raise money and hopes to add new customers when the right deal is found. He agrees that hiring a consultant to find buyers would lead to the best deal for the district. ?It?s like trying to sell a house by yourself. You can put a sign up there ?For sale by owner? and you usually sell the house for less than you would have if you had a real estate agent,? Holbrook said. He added that district staff has been thorough in working on the Unison deal and presented quality information for the board to review. Fecko said residents could potentially benefit from additional easements on the cell tower. He added that there are three other light towers at James Field and the district is open to easements on those. ?The area could benefit by getting another cell company on there, which would potentially better the service,? Fecko said. Reach Sara Seyydin at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.