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City councilors question telecommunications tower agreement

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When a city water tower at the Roswell Air Center comes down, after two new waters nearing completion replace it, telecommunications and cellphone equipment serving national wireless carriers attached to the old tower will come down with it.

What happens then is now before Roswell city councilors, who have scheduled a special Legal Committee meeting next week after committee members were unwilling to forward an option and lease agreement to the Roswell City Council as it was presented to them Thursday afternoon.

At the suggestion of City Manager Joe Neeb, the councilors agreed to hold an extra meeting of the committee in an effort to pave the way for consideration of the legal agreement by the entire governing body at its April 8 meeting.

Sean Milks, a representative for Gravity Pad Partners II LLC, told councilors that he was notified by his client in late December that new telecommunications towers were needed to hold antennae, receivers and transmitters and other equipment for telecommunication companies. That equipment is on the existing water tower but they will not be allowed on the new water towers.

Milks said the entire construction, equipment installation and regulatory process takes about a year, and it is “imperative” that an agreement that the city council is willing to approve be developed “as soon as possible.”

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“We have to order materials,” Milks said. “We have to start construction by next month in order to have all three carriers switched over to the new monopole and their FCC (Federal Communications Commission) license frequencies being able to continue their services, because they have a legal obligation to the public for emergency services. They cannot come off the air.”

Milks, whose companies have other telecommunications towers in Roswell and other New Mexico cities, said that the carriers involved are AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The three Legal Committee members present at the meeting expressed concerns about the agreement as it was presented to them.

Councilor Jason Perry said a few times that he did not mean to be a “thorn” or “be unkind” but had several qualms.

“I always get itchy and nervous about being pushed into making a quick decision. I just have been burned too many times with stuff like that before,” he said.

One question he had was the possible 40-year term that could be involved.

“We just don’t know what Roswell will look like in 40 years,” he said.

The agreement as drafted by Gravity Pad Partners gives the company a one-year option for a fee of $100. The option could be renewed for another year for an additional $100 fee. The company could assign, transfer or sell the option to an affiliate of Gravity Pad, but not to another entity. An option is a legal agreement to give an entity the right to take action and, in this case, refers to the right to lease property to erect the monopoles or telecommunications towers.

If the company decides to proceed with a lease, it would have an initial five-year term, which would automatically renew seven times for five years each extension, unless Gravity Pad decided against the extension or unless the city of Roswell terminated the lease for reasons allowed by the agreement.

The lease would be for 2,500 square feet of ground and for the air above it for the two monopoles, and would allow the company access for parking and for cables and other equipment.

The rent would be $1,020 a month for the initial term and would increase at least 15% after each five-year term. Gravity Pad Partners also would pay the city about 20% of any rent it receives from the companies placing equipment on the monopoles.

Councilor Barry Foster said that he would want an audit of company financials to ensure that the city was receiving 20% of rental income, while Councilor Judy Stubbs and Perry said they would prefer that city lease agreements be written by the city as landlord, not the tenant. Perry also said that he wants to see an annual lease increase at least equal to the consumer price index.

Another issue the councilors had with the agreement was that it included blank exhibits to be completed at a future time, although Milks said that the information had been provided to city employees on Thursday.

Those exhibits are expected to contain information about the property to be leased, the tower equipment, the access routes for equipment and the access area for parking.

Milks described the property as being near one of the two new water towers, and said that one monopole would be located on each side of the tower. He said both of the monopoles would be short enough not to obscure the city logos on the water tower.

One of the new water towers is at East Earl Cummings Loop and East Gillis Street. The other is at West Earl Cummings Loop and West Martin Street. City staff chose not to release information about which site had been chosen, and the information was not available by other means by press time.

Foster said that he would be willing to approve the matter for city council consideration without seeing the exhibits, but he warned that he would vote against the agreement at the city council meeting if the exhibits were not complete or acceptable. Perry said that he wanted the Legal Committee to review the agreement again.

Committee members voted 3-0 to meet at 4 p.m. on April 1 to reconsider the agreement. According to information provided by the city, the water tower on East Gillis Street is expected to be completed in May, while the tower on West Martin Street should be finished by August.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.