Same topic. Different island.
The Bradenton Beach Commission listened to pitches from three cellular-service providers at its Monday, June 15 workshop, in an attempt to boost its poor reception.
And just like on Longboat Key, Commissioner Gene Jaleski asked the commission to consider other alternatives before approving a tower in its city.
The city is considering allowing a cellular tower near its Public Works Department, which could become an enticing revenue producer.
Collier Enterprises consultant and attorney Linda Cobbe told the five-member commission that her company could build a tower for the city that would not incur any operating or maintenance costs, while producing annual starting lease revenues of $24,000 per year.
Cobbe, whose company would also share in the revenue stream, said the tower could hold up to six carriers, which could boost the town’s lease revenues to $54,000 per year.
Longboat Key resident and cell-phone carrier representative Jim Eatrides, told the commission that Collier Enterprises’ proposal was similar to a proposal he submitted on behalf of his own company, Alpha Omega Communications.
“In order to provide the best coverage needed today, a tower down near the marina on city property makes the best sense,” Eatrides said.
Jaleski, however, urged the commission to consider other alternatives like Distributed Antenna Systems, which features a tiny network of antennas that can be placed on power and telephone poles to boost reception.
“I am here on behalf of no technology and I am not affiliated with any commercial or business interest,” Jaleski said. “I am not for DAS, I just think it’s more aesthetically pleasing and it’s used in hundreds of communities across America.”
Jaleski also warned that approving a tower could open the door for other towers.
Eatrides, however, denounced a petition created by Jaleski, which more than 660 Longboaters signed in favor of alternatives like DAS over towers.
“DAS is like putting a square peg in a round hole and only makes more sense in high-density areas,” Eatrides said.
The commission, however, seemed intrigued by DAS and agreed to consider the concept, as long as it meets the reception needs of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. The revenue stream for DAS, though, would be significantly less for the city and might not produce any revenues at all, because the antennas are placed on existing utilities.
Manatee County Sheriff District Three Commander Ron Couch told the commission he would report back to the commission with how a DAS system might work for the sheriff’s office marine unit, which is building a new complex across from Coquina Beach.
Cobbe also told the commission that her company, which has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Hillsborough County School District by placing towers on school property, could entertain the DAS technology.
And Cobbe had a differing opinion on DAS than Eatrides, who told the commission his company did not work with any DAS providers.
“The economic hurdles for DAS have lessened and the technology that goes along with it has gotten better, too,” Cobbe said.
The city commission agreed to review the tower proposals and DAS before making a decision.
“We need all the education we can get before making an informed decision,” said commissioner John Shaughnessy.
On two separate occasions, Key resident and cell phone carrier representative Jim Eatrides has rejected a petition created by Commissioner Gene Jaleski, in which only two out of 663 residents did not sign a petition in favor of smaller antennas over towers.
Said Eatrides: “The petition only asked if you would rather have a big, ugly tower versus a DAS system.”
The petition reads: “A petition opposing tall cell phone towers on the north end of Longboat Key and recommending to the Town Commission that a Distributed Antenna System be installed to improve cell phone reception.
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