Elk­ton dis­cusses pur­chas­ing Belle Hill Wa­ter Tower land

Cecil Whig - - & - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.

ELK­TON

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY BRI­ANNA SHEA

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.

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