Council declines to sell cell tower
- Published: April 18, 2019
In a 3–2 decision, Village Council declined an offer from a private company to buy out the Sutton Farm cell tower.
Council members Kevin Stokes, Lisa Kreeger and Brian Housh voted against the “perpetual lease” of the tower, which Village Manager Patti Bates has been recommending for the last few months. Council members Kineta Sanford and Marianne MacQueen voted to approve the offer.
Earlier this year, SBA Properties, of Boca Raton, Fla., offered the Village a lump sum of $280,000 for the tower it operates, an amount it later increased to $305,000. It was the third time that SBA had made the request in recent years, according to Bates.
“Normally this is not something that staff would recommend we do,” Bates said this week.
“But given the number of infrastructure projects now on our plate, staff talked about it and decided we would recommend this to Council,” Bates added.
Bates told Council that if they declined the request, the company, which currently hosts one cellular provider on the tower, would continue to pay the Village its monthly lease fee of around $1,500, an amount which increases every few years. But the company could also dismantle the tower if it no longer had any providers.
Stokes has urged Council to continue to reap monthly lease payments, which would in 15 years reach more than $400,000 cumulatively. He also suggested that the tower has more value than the amount offered to buy it out.
“I’m in favor of not selling the lease because it’s easier to do nothing,” Stokes said. “I just don’t believe that a company would say we would give $305,000 for something that is worth nothing.”
From the floor, this reporter asked Council to revisit, prior to voting, the financial calculations and recommendations of a municipal fiber study group, SpringsNet, which has suggested that the tower may become increasingly valuable.
Clapping ban revisited
Council continued to discuss a resolution it passed last month that bans clapping, booing, signs and other expressions during the citizen comments portion of Council meetings.
Council Vice President MacQueen said she understands the perspective that clapping is a way for marginalized groups to be heard, but affirmed her support for the resolution, which she believes creates a safe space so that “all voices can be heard.”
“It’s not about clapping or not, it’s about trust, safety and a sense that [citizens] are being listened to,” she said.
Council member Lisa Kreeger said it’s important to balance the need for Council meetings to run efficiently with hearing citizen input, the latter of which is “the most important thing.”
Village Manager Patti Bates said she believed the intention of the resolution was to make sure people are comfortable speaking an opposing view at Council.
“A lot of people don’t come to the meeting and don’t speak out because they feel intimidated in this room,” Bates said.
Council President Housh said the measure is not intended to “shut down any community member,” and isn’t specifically targeting anyone that recently used such expressions in a Council meeting. Instead the idea came about because those watching the meetings from home or on YouTube could not hear the meeting when people clapped, he said.
“People can’t even listen to meetings,” Housh said. “This is not reactionary, I think it’s practical.”
From the floor, Karen Wintrow said she wanted to pass a similar rule during her Council tenure and encouraged Council to maintain the rule to see how it works.
Sam Eckenrode suggested a pamphlet outside Council chambers spelling out the rules of engagement, and another speaker offered, “the silent clap works.” This reporter said that meetings during which many villagers come to Council to express their opinion are rare and part of the democratic process.
Council decided it would host a public discussion of the issue at a future Council meeting to solicit more opinions on the matter.
$10K allocated to economic group
Council unanimously approved a $10,000 expenditure to help set up a new nonprofit, the Yellow Springs Community Development Corporation, a designated community improvement corporation, or DCIC.
The money was allocated from the Village’s economic development capital improvement fund, which had a balance of $149,000.
The Village Economic Sustainability Commission, or ESC, has been working to set up the organization, which could play a role in development at the Glass Farm, the athletic fields at YSHS and other publicly-owned properties.
Other local entities, including the Yellow Springs school board and Miami Township Trustees, are being asked to chip in $500 to get the group up and running.
Kreeger, the Council liaison to the ESC, also shared that although the new DCIC had planned to revive and administer the Village revolving loan fund, Kreeger recently found a legal memo from 2018 that limited a DCIC’s discretion in giving such loans.
Council’s next meeting is Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.