Elkton discusses purchasing Belle Hill Water Tower land
— The town board of commissioners is considering purchasing the land that the Belle Hill Water Tower sits on from the state in order to earn future income.
During their Wednesday meeting, Lewis George, town administrator, said the Maryland Transportation Authority is willing to sell its half acre of land to the town for $49,000, which could be paid for through the town’s water fund.
In 2014, Verizon came to the town about leasing space on the Belle Hill Water Tower in order to erect a cell tower at its peak to improve cell signals, George explained.
The idea to purchase the land from the state grew out of that inquiry. He said AT&T also had a discussion with the town but that the discussion and any action did not go through because “principally” the town did not have authority to lease the water tower site due the terms of the lease with the MTA, more than 10 years ago.
George said before the town could lease space, the town would have to own the property because the town does not have authority to lease the site to another party under the terms of the lease with the Maryland Transportation Authority. The town was granted an easement for the tower several years ago.
The sale was recently approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works and then MTA officials would arrange a settlement date. George said once those steps are completed, the agreement with Verizon can be initiated.
Such a deal with a cellular provider would not be a first for the town, as Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless, has leased space on the Blue Ball Water Tower since 1996, George noted. The Belle Hill Water Tower currently has no antennas or wireless equipment though, due to its lease limitations.
“$49,000 sounds like a lot of money for a half acre of land, but we currently lease to Verizon Wireless, same company actually, for the Blue Ball tower and we get $20,736 annually,” George told the board. “So we’ll make our money back pretty quick on that.”
The tower would continue to bring in additional revvenue after it is paid off.
Mayor Rob Alt supported the plan, noting it would take only two to three years to pay off the cost of the land purchase. After that, the lease’s income would go back into the town’s water fund to pay for future infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. He noted that the Belle Hill tower could support multiple antennas.
“We would put as many as we could put on that tower,” he said.
The commissioners will consider and vote on the agreement at the upcoming town hall meeting on Nov. 16.
The Elkton commissioners are discussing purchasing the half acre of land that the Belle Hill Water Tower sits on in order to lease space on the tower to cellular companies.