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Port looks at cell tower above beach

FREELAND — Port of South Whidbey commissioners will evaluate a proposal for placing a cellular tower on the hill above Possession Beach Waterfront Park.

Port manager Ed Field told commissioners that AT&T wants to construct and operate a facility that will serve Whidbey Island.

That’s a switch from previous proposals, he added.

“Unlike requests from other cell-phone carriers, AT&T said that the tower would primarily serve South Whidbey,” Field said.

Outgoing Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle noted that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed before such an idea can be accepted.

“We need to know the footprint, any clearing needed and required access to the site,” he said. “But overall, it’s a good idea that can generate income.”

Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert agreed.

“Possession Point has a 400-foot hill which is a prime location,” he said. “We’re interested but need to know more, and a presentation from them on the details.”

Port Commissioner Curt Gordon noted that, after the cell tower is built, other carriers will likely want to use the tower.

“Any agreement we make with AT&T would have to take that into consideration, so that as the company’s income rose, so would ours,” Gordon said. “We need to know more.”

AT&T’s initial proposal is for a lease-option to run for five years, with periodic renewal terms over the next 25 years. The lease rate for the initial term would be $750 per month with a 15-percent increase every five years.

AT&T would make a one-time payment of $1,000, which would allow AT&T to get approval of all of its required permits. The facility would need to be approved by both the Island County planning department and the Federal Communications Commission, an effort some say would take six months.

The lease area would be approximately 40 feet by 40 feet. A six-foot cedar fence would be placed around the facility. The 40-foot-high tower can be painted to match existing tree color, and only the top 10 percent of the tower would be seen above the treeline, said site acquisition specialist Steven Berke.

The diameter of the top of the tower would be approximately 2 feet, making the facility almost non-detectable from anyone's view and there would need to be an access route to the tower site, said Berke, whose company searches for cell tower sites.

“A power line and phone line would be buried underneath the access route,” he said. “Once the tower is built, AT&T would visit the site approximately once every two months to perform routine maintenance.”

Berke added that the facility would provide wireless phone service, emergency 911 services and high-speed broadband Internet access for boaters and homeowners in the area.

Port commissioners instructed port staff to arrange a presentation by Berke as soon as possible.

The port’s next meeting is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12 at a location to be determined.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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