Better cellular telephone coverage may be in the cards for peninsula dialers.
And just the right location for a tower is all that's needed to provide that coverage to the general public, as well as all emergency service providers in Soldotna and the surrounding area, according to McCall Communications of Anchorage Inc., doing business as AT&T Wireless Services.
The right location just happens to be a 75-by-75-foot parcel included in a larger piece of land already leased to the Tsalteshi Trail Association by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
AT&T has submitted an application to the borough, requesting a five-year lease of the site, with the option to renew the lease for five additional five-year terms. The telecommunications giant is proposing an initial option payment of $1,000 upon execution of the agreement and annual rental payments in the amount of $6,000 upon commencement of construction.
The company would like to build a 180-foot tower and an electronic equipment building, surrounded by a fence and remotely monitored for fire and intrusion. Construction of an access road near the intersection of Roosevelt and Lincoln avenues and continuing along a utility easement adjacent to the parcel is part of the proposal as well.
The proposed 180-foot tower is designed to allow use by others.
"AT&T will also allow emergency service providers to attach their antennas to the tower and place associated electronic equipment in the AT&T shelter," said AT&T consultant Jeff Penick, in a letter to the borough.
According to the borough's procedures for processing applications for negotiated purchase, lease or exchange of borough land, Borough Mayor Dale Bagley will determine "whether it is in the public's best interest to proceed with the negotiations and proposed transaction" within approximately 14 days.
Roy Dudley, borough planner, estimated AT&T's application would come before the borough planning commission in December and reach the borough assembly in February.
"(The assembly has) the final say if the proposal is in the (public's) bests interests," said Dudley.
Dudley said there are two opportunities for public involvement, once during the planning commission review and again when the application is brought before the borough assembly.
Two weeks prior to the lease being reviewed by the planning commission, Dudley said, notices will be mailed to homeowners and lessees within a half-mile radius of the parcel.
"This is actually good timing. We have all winter," said Dudley, who estimated that if the lease is approved, construction could begin next summer.
Bagley signed the existing 10-year lease with the Tsalteshi Trail Association in July 2000. It charges the association with maintaining, developing and managing the Tsalteshi Trail System for the specific benefit of the borough school district and general use for public and private events. Stated in the lease is the borough's "right to lease portions of the land ... to another entity for other (Kenai Peninsula Borough or Kenai Peninsula Borough School District) purposes."
Penny McClain, Tsalteshi Trail Association chairperson, said the organization's membership is divided over its concern about the AT&T proposal.
"We do have a 10-year lease and a 10-year plan," McClain said. "Every encroachment makes it hard to satisfy the work that we've proposed over the next 10 years. But as the chair of Tsalteshi, I can only go with how the membership feels."
According to McClain, the trail association has approximately 60 members, sponsors both summer and winter cross-country events and is planning a Nov. 3 winter kick-off event. A $12,000 grant from the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, made possible by the 10-year borough lease, opened the door for directional signs and construction of an equipment shed for trail-grooming equipment.
Maps provided by Dudley indicate the proposed tower will be erected approximately 250 feet from the nearest portion of the trail system.
"The site itself will be screened from view by the existing trees, shrubs and brush, however the upper portion of the tower will be visible," the application states.
McClain said the tower probably wouldn't affect trail users, but she speculated it may not be the final encroachment.
"It's not going to impact us that much," she said. "But this is only the beginning. This is not the one and only time they're going to do this.
"We've been there for 10 years already. We have a lot of time invested. ... But we've never dunned the borough for any money. This (trail system) was put together by the community, for the community."
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