BAXTER — Increased use of mobile phones and a dead spot in Baxter had city council members considering a request for a wireless communications tower by city hall.
AT&T was testing the waters Tuesday to see if the council would be open to a request for a 150-foot tower east of the city hall building on Memorywood Drive.
In Baxter, towers are restricted to the 150-foot height. The land at city hall has the proper zoning for a tower but is complicated by being within the shoreland districts for Baxter and White Sand lakes. The structure height in the shoreland is restricted to 25 feet, requiring an exception.
The tower lease would create income for the city. The tower at the public works facility brings $1,394 to the city each month. If a tower was constructed next to city hall, it would be behind a 6-foot fence with screening and would require a driveway so AT&T could access the equipment.
Council members looked at an aerial of the site and the proposed tower location. But reaction to the proposal was cool.
“They would really have to work hard to show they couldn’t be somewhere else,” said council member Todd Holman.
For technical reasons, Gordon Heitke, city administrator, said AT&T was serious about the city hall site.
Council member Mark Cross was concerned about future conflicts as the city’s long-term plan is to move city hall to a city center by Forestview Middle School. Having a cell tower on the property at Memorywood limits sales potential and building expansion, Cross said.
“I’m not in favor of putting it here either,” Cross said.
Council member Rob Moser agreed, saying additional information at the meeting, specifically the shoreland district issue, moved him to be against the location.
Trevor Walter, public works director, said AT&T has a dead zone on Memorywood and Kenwood and needs another tower. The city limits locations by zoning to public benefit, commercial and industrial. Walter said they previously reported they will need more towers to make up for the loss of height with Baxter’s regulation.
“They have a very detailed report on why is it needed,” Walter said. “So that’s why they are coming back. There is a need in this area”
Walter said it’s all about data as people watch Netflix and download data on their mobile phones. That’s what’s causing the need for the additional tower, he said.
Klein said that is AT&T’s problem. “So put up a tower, put it up in some swamp or something,” he said
Cross asked if a compromise may be putting a taller tower in the new industrial park to eliminate the need for a smaller tower by city hall.
The maximum height in the industrial district is 350 feet.
“Everybody is giving up their land lines and going to cell phones,” Mayor Darrel Olson said, noting while no one wants the towers, everyone wants their cell phones to work. “You have to choose your poison,” he said.
The consensus from the council was not to have the tower at city hall.
In other business, the council:
Agreed there is a need to put at least an inch of gravel on Franklin and Wildflower roads as a petition for paving has not be received and the fast approaching fall won’t leave time for the project until the spring of 2013 at the earliest. The city has about two miles of gravel roads.
Cost for the gravel is expected to be in the $10,000 to $12,000 range.
The city will be accepting leaves at the disposal site, which is east of the water treatment plant, yet this fall. Then the site will be moved because it’s in the wellhead protection area. But the city learned the combination of sand and decomposing leaves has value. Residents have been able to draw from it for free for potting soil. Now Costco and other businesses have expressed an interest in purchasing the soil mixture, which is not fully compost. Walter noted if commercial haulers will haul the soil, it will save fuel and staff hours along with trucking costs to remove it.
Klein said he wanted Baxter businesses to be given the first crack, although there was no motion to restrict the soil purchase to residency.
The city administrator was given leeway to set the price for the soil.