Wood County wants new lease agreement for communications tower

Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, left, and Wood County Commission President Blair Couch discuss what the county would like to see in a new lease for a communication tower behind the Wood County 911 Center. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission wants to negotiate a new lease agreement for a communications tower located on county property.

The commission Monday met with Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, the county’s attorney, to discuss options regarding the lease on a communications tower behind the Wood County 911 Center between Core Road and I-77.

The county had a 20-year lease on the tower which expires this year.

Lefebure said when the lease was put in place, the county entered the agreement to get a tower for better cell coverage in the area.

”I would say it was beneficial for the county, because we could put a lot of our 911 equipment, repeaters and things on that tower,” he said.

When the county originally entered the agreement, they were paid a one-time fee of $10 in which the county turned around and paid a one-time fee of $10 to have their equipment put on the tower.

”It has not been a money maker for either side at this point,” Lefebure said. ”It is known these days that towers can generate money.”

The lease with American Tower is now coming due and the county wants to renegotiate.

Lefebure said the company wants the existing terms, but with six five-year options and they will make a one time payment of $20,000 to cover all of the options for the life of the lease.

”From looking at it, we think that might be a little low considering some of the private individuals who receive money for these towers that are placed on their land,” Lefebure said.

The company is looking to get a new lease negotiated and approved, he said.

County officials had questions about the original lease through Telespectrum. That was the lease that said the county could put its emergency equipment on the tower.

”The county owns the land the tower sits on and American Tower owns the tower itself,” Lefebure said.

Officials said the typical rate for communication towers on someone’s property was around $1,000 a month.

Lefebure said the county still has a 10-year lease left for its equipment to be on the tower.

”My fear is that whatever we raise this to that in 10 years, it will be turned around on us,” he said.

During his time with the city, Commissioner Jimmy Colombo said the tower on Quincy Hill probably changed owners four times. Tebay, who has a business interest in another tower, said people are constantly calling him wanting to buy him out.

Colombo asked if the company does not agree to those terms, could they come in and tear the tower down?

”It is their tower,” Couch said. ”If they want to disassemble it and move it somewhere else, good luck to them.”

Officials said that could cost the company additional money and they would have to locate a new site.

Colombo asked if the county could negotiate a better deal with another tower company.

Lefebure said it was possible, but the county would have a number of upfront costs in dealing with another company.

”The way I see it, $1,000 a month is the going rate,” Couch said. ”They got the first 20 years for free and we have 10 years left on our co-location.”

The commission want the company to pay the county $1,000 a month and to look at the agreement after 10 years when the county’s lease of its equipment to be on the tower is up.

Officials also want to look at maintain ownership over the ground the tower sits on in the event if the 911 center eventually moves to a bigger location which has been discussed and their old building would be sold.

Lefebure will work on the deal for the county and see what is agreeable to the company.