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Police District Will Take Over Operation Of Cell Tower

May 31 deadline looms large; unlikely that Verizon will be replaced

The Port Washington Police District intends to take over operation of the cell phone monopole behind police headquarters when the current lease with Crown Castle, a Houston-based company, ends on May 31, 2012. The district plans to manage the tower on its own, either with the assistance of a consultant or by hiring a private company to assist in negotiating leases with carriers wanting to use the tower.

The current carrier transmitting on the tower is Verizon and they have already approached the district regarding a lease beyond May 31. At the present time, Verizon is the only provider using the tower, but this does not preclude the district from leasing space to other providers as long as it is determined that the tower can accommodate multiple providers without interfering with police communications.

The police district is dependent upon Verizon for its communications capabilities including 911 calls. They have approximately 20 Verizon modems at headquarters. The cost of replacing a modem at approximately $1,000 each makes it unlikely that the department would choose to replace Verizon on the monopole.

The original lease for the cell phone tower, which is located directly behind police headquarters, adjacent to Nassau Knolls Cemetery, was signed with NYNEX in 1992. Since then, mergers and acquisitions within the communications industry has transferred the lease agreement and ownership of the tower through several entities. The current leaseholder appears to be Crown Capital with Verizon being a subtenant.

Members of the public in attendance at the commissioners meeting on March 28 expressed concern that the end of the lease be seamless to the public and the department since vital communication is at stake. Barry Loeb, who attends many of the district’s meetings, expressed his concerns that the commissioners had dragged their feet with respect to the lease agreement with Crown and had not left adequate time to properly explore their options and negotiate a lease with Verizon prior to the May 31 expiration date.

Loeb has publicly questioned the commissioners during the last few months regarding the status of negotiations with Crown. Loeb asked if the district “Even knows who the current leaseholder is.” Steve Ressa, attorney for the district, said that, “Payments come from Crown Castle. Whether or not they are actually the legal entity that owns the lease is questionable because of the consolidation in the communications industry. We are led to believe that Crown Castle is the owner of the tower and the lease.”

During the last few months the commissioners have declined comment on the status of their talks with Crown except to say that, “There is ongoing dialogue.” On at least one occasion, Commissioner Duncan refused to answer questions about the negotiations based on attorney-client privilege.