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Supervisors agree to tower leases for 911 system

In a special called meeting Tuesday, Sept. 29, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors approved tower lease agreements for two more towers making way for the county’s new E911 radio system.

Board members approved a lease agreement for a Verizon tower located in Drakes Branch and an SEC Tower located in Sugar Hill. The third agreement for a Charlotte Court House tower located near the sheriff’s office was put on hold.

All three towers are currently operational. The county use these towers to add needed equipment for the new $3 million radio communication system.

According to County Administrator Dan Witt, the Verizon tower’s lease agreement will not cost the county a fee as it will be leased free of charge.

The Sugar Hill Tower will be leased at the cost of $350 monthly.

“The SEC tower is managed by a management company and is the only tower the county will be paying for,” Witt said. “The fee is very reasonable.”

According to Witt, the county originally estimated tower leases at $54,000 annually, based on a consultant’s input.

The third tower agreement put on hold by the board until the county attorney could further study the lease is owned by US Cellular and, according to Witt, the county has an agreement where it trades ground space for free tower space.

Charlotte Court House Town Council member Terry Ramsey brought to the forefront that the tower is currently under a 30- year lease agreement. In his opinion, the county would benefit from continuing under that lease agreement instead of entering into a new agreement.

“My issue is U.S. Cellular has a 30-year ground lease on the tower at the sheriff’s office where they pay no rent which expires Aug. 3, 2023, and at conclusion wording, in the current lease it indicates the county will own the tower,” Ramsey said. “The proposed lease appears to be a back door to extending the current no rent lease with U.S. Cellular.  When the current lease expires, I think the county should be collecting substantial dollars in ground rent … The county will have a valuable asset in the tower at sheriff’s office in 2023 when the current lease expires, and the county should be making plans now to maximize the value of that asset.”

Witt said that because Ramsey’s questions were presented on the afternoon of the special called meeting, he recommended that the board pause on that agreement and allow the county attorney to review both the current and new lease agreements.

In addition to these towers, the county is set to begin construction this fall on a new telecommunications tower at the intersection of Red House Road and Vincent Store Road to serve the emergency services radio communication system as well as provide broadband expansion opportunities.

The new emergency services system is set to go live at the end of July 2021.