Chapel Hill Takes on New Technology with Phoenix Tower

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Town of Chapel Hill held its regularly scheduled meeting to discuss new ways of bringing revenue into the small community.

Town Administrator Mike Hatten addressed the new adequate facilities tax issue, which will be debated amongst local and state officials during an upcoming special call meeting. However, the Board of Mayor and Alderman were able hear and consider a recent issue that has the possibility of generating funds for the near and extended future.

A communications company approached the Board of Mayor and Alderman during the May meeting. The company proposed to erect cellular towers, which are to be used for Internet, cable television and cell phone services. By utilizing the towers with the addition of such modifications, the town would be able to charge a fee to the communications company for renting the space on the water tower. The Board acted on the idea, but was unable to give the communications company a definite answer without consulting Phoenix Tanks, which services the town's larger tank located on W. Depot St.

Hatten arranged a meeting with Phoenix agent, Orion Osborne to discuss the probabilities and risks of bringing a cellular provider to the area.

Osborne assured the Board of Mayor and Alderman that the cellular industry is constantly looking for sites to set up their antennas. Since Phoenix has an agreement with Chapel Hill for services to the town's water tanks, Osborne explained that the town would need to enter into a contract to allow them to market their water towers to cellular providers as well.

"There will be no cost to Chapel Hill. Once I find a provider that would be willing to come to the town, then Chapel Hill and Phoenix will share the revenue. The town will keep 70 percent, while Phoenix will keep 30 percent," said Osborne.

However, Osborne did mention that the money might not automatically start rolling in.

"The question that is posed to us as marketers would be; is there enough revenue stream to warrant a provider to want to come to Chapel Hill? A revenue stream is the number of calls received and disbursed on a daily basis," he said.

The rate of daily calls along with the towers' positions and the conditions of the tanks could all be factors that would either allow Phoenix to better market the tanks or deter providers all together.

According to Osborne, there are some minor problems with the tanks, but upon accepting the new agreement with Phoenix, the towers would receive new paint.

Town Administrator Hatten recommended the agreement by suggesting that if Phoenix is able to successfully market the towers then the town would be able to put the revenue back into the water and sewer utilities.

Osborne added that if he finds a provider that the town is not interested in signing a contract with, then the town would be given two weeks to send a formal refusal letter. The town also has the option at the end of four years to terminate their marketing contract with Phoenix with no penalties.

The Board of Mayor and Alderman agreed with Hatten and unanimously voted in favor of the agreement.