Water tower to be home for antenna

City, college enter 10-year contract with AT&T

Structure on WMC campus

Voicestream, Nextel have made deals with municipality

September 05, 2001|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SUN STAFF

In Westminster, the water tower on Western Maryland College's hilltop campus will soon become more than a backup source for hot bubble baths, long showers and car washes - it also will improve phone conversations.

AT&T Corp. has made arrangements to place an antenna atop the tower, built in the 1970s as a water reservoir for the city, to bolster local cellular phone service. The city and the college will equally share revenues from the 10-year lease. The city owns the tower and the college owns the land on which it stands.

Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works, said cellular phone companies often make such agreements with cities to avoid building large, unsightly antennas that residents often find objectionable. Phone companies often seek out tall structures, such as church steeples and water towers.

"This arrangement helps to generate cash to maintain our system," Beyard said.

Communications companies, including Nextel, Voicestream and AT&T, have showered the city with offers of monthly rental fees for locations like the water tower on which to place antennas, Beyard said. He noted the city and college amended a long-standing agreement restricting the placement of communications antennas to allow the lease.

Westminster has agreed to three 10-year leases with AT&T, Nextel and Voicestream. The other phone companies will place their antennas elsewhere - one atop the Sawgrass water tank off Route 31 and the other on an existing tower behind the Target department store on Route 140.

Under the lease terms, the companies will pay Westminster an up-front cost of $9,000 for each antenna, plus monthly payments. AT&T will pay $2,000 per month, with a 5 percent annual increase in payment. Nextel and Voicestream will pay $2,100 per month, with a 3.75 percent annual increase.

City and college officials called the agreement a win-win situation.

The city plans to use its share of the revenue to help maintain its water distribution system, while WMC will use the money to help cover operating costs.

Don Schumaker, a Western Maryland College spokesman, said the tower - which overlooks the college's sloping golf course - may be the tallest structure in the city, so the antenna's placement there makes sense and should prove very effective.

"We are always excited when we can do something with the local community," he said.

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