By Jim Newell
Orion Township could be getting a new cell tower at the fire station on Giddings Road if negotiations fare well between the township, Verizon and the company that wants to install the tower.
The board of trustees unanimously approved a motion at its Dec. 6 meeting to allow Supervisor Chris Barnett and the township to enter into negotiations with Tower Company and Verizon to construct and install an approximately 160-foot cell phone tower at the rear of Orion Township Fire Station #2 at 3801 Giddings Rd.
“We would like to begin the formal communications and negotiations in this process,” Barnett said in presenting the request to the board. “We don’t have a contract for approval. We would come back to the board with any proposal for approval.”
Tower Company has already spent about $50,000 in the process. “This is a courtesy before they invest any more money into that area,” Barnett said.
Tower Company would still have to go through the planning process, including submitting a site plan and presenting it to the planning commission for review and then the board of trustees would have to give final approval.
The township would be compensated for allowing the proposed tower installation. “We don’t yet know how much. That’s what we’re negotiating,” Barnett said.
Three ways the township could be paid include a one-time lump sum payment which would be a sizable cash infusion but would lack a more desirable long-term monetary fee structure.
The township could also sign a lease, such as a 10-year lease, which the board would then renegotiate once the term of the lease is up.
Or, the township and Tower Company could agree to a monthly fee. Barnett said the early proposal was in the $1,000 – $1,200 range per month, which the township felt was on the low side.
David Anton, who represents Tower Company and Verizon, attended the meeting and said the companies chose that area because it’s the best area to enhance coverage and there is “so much usage in that area.”
If the board did not accept the proposal, Tower Company and Verizon could build the tower in another location on private property.
“We always try to choose the local (government) first before we offer it to someone else,” Anton told the board.
One advantage of the location is that the tower would not be in a residential area, Barnett said.
Installation of cell phone towers has often raised public concern about the health impacts to residents near the towers.
According to the American Cancer Society website: “Public exposure to radio waves from cell phone tower antennas is slight for several reasons. The power levels are relatively low, the antennas are mounted high above ground level, and the signals are transmitted intermittently, rather than constantly.
“Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea.” (Source: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/cellular-phone-towers.html.)