February 27

Chelsea decides against selling cell tower lease

The Board of Selectmen voted to not sell the rights to its cell tower lease because it couldn’t identify an immediate need that would have outweighed the lost potential revenue.

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The Chelsea Board of Selectmen decided at its meeting Wednesday night not to sell the rights to its cell tower lease.

The town could have sold the rights to its cell tower lease on Eastern Avenue to a private company for more than $100,000, but the town will earn around triple that over the next 40 years if U.S. Cellular continues to renew the lease with the town.

Town Manager Scott Tilton said the board decided to not pursue selling the rights because it didn’t identify an immediate need for the money.

“The need didn’t outweigh the benefit of keeping it the way it is,” Tilton said Thursday morning. “We didn’t have anything particular to spend it on, and it was being sold for kind of a discount.”

About 15 years remain on a 25-year-lease with U.S. Cellular for the cell tower, according to Tilton. The town earns $758 a month for leasing the tower, but it could have sold the leasing rights to one of two out-of-state companies that expressed interest for a one-time sum of more than $100,000, Tilton said. The selectmen rejected a previous offer to sell the leasing rights last year, he said, but the offer was about $30,000 lower.

If the town sold the lease to a private company, the company would collect all income from leasing the property for 40 years. The lease with U.S. Cellular expires in 2028, but the company can renew the lease in five-year increments, Tilton said.

The town could earn more than $360,000 over the next 40 years if U.S. Cellular renews its lease for the cell tower.

Tilton said New York-based Unison offered $115,000 for the rights to the lease. Los Angeles-based Wireless Capital Partners hadn’t made an offer, but had said it could beat Unison’s terms, Tilton said.

The selectmen heard mostly opposition to selling the rights from the several residents who attended the public hearing held by the board Feb. 12, according to Tilton.

The board also discussed updating the town’s comprehensive plan, which hasn’t been updated since 2003, with the Planning Board at Wednesday night’s meeting, Tilton said.

Paul Koenig — 207-621-5663pkoenig@centralmaine.comTwitter: @paul_koenig

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