South Bethany considers Artesian-Verizon deal

South Bethany Town Council considered an agreement between Artesian (water) and Verizon (telephone) that could bring in some extra rent money for the town, at a July 28 workshop.
Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: South Bethany Town Council Members Richard Ronan and Bob Cestone pace off locations for a hypothetical Verizon equipment shelter.Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY:
South Bethany Town Council Members Richard Ronan and Bob Cestone pace off locations for a hypothetical Verizon equipment shelter.

Verizon’s Tod Bettenhausen said the company had identified South Bethany as an area where they’d like to enhance cellular services. Bettenhausen said he’d approached Sea Colony first but, finding no interest there, had turned to consideration of Artesian’s water tower instead.

He said he’d approached Artesian’s Rob Penman about placing antennas around the “bulb” of the water tower (with cables to the ground). Penman had indicated the water company would be receptive to the idea, Bettenhausen said.

Artesian leases the ground beneath the water tower from the town, so South Bethany would have to modify that lease to bring Verizon into the arrangement.

At this stage, Bettenhausen couldn’t speculate on how much rent money would go to Artesian, how much to the town, but he offered a max. “Typically, Verizon’s going to pay no more than $2,000 a month, split up between all parties,” Bettenhausen pointed out.

The antennae would be a little more than 4 feet tall, 1 foot wide and 6 inches deep. They would not extend above the bulb (no porcupine appearance), and both the antennae and coaxial cables to the ground would be painted the same color as the water tower.

Verizon would need to build a 360-square-foot equipment shelter near the base of the tower (10 feet tall, 12 feet wide, 30 feet long). A technician would stop by this shelter once, twice, maybe three times a month – it would otherwise be unmanned.

The equipment shelter would contain batteries and a diesel generator. Verizon typically rigged such generators to fire up and run for a short period, once a week, “to exercise them,” Bettenhausen noted.

Council Member Jay Headman asked him if he’d heard complaints about noise in other neighborhoods where Verizon had similar facilities, and Bettenhausen said the generators were indeed audible from within 50 feet — but for homes more than 100 feet from the equipment shelter, noise pollution wouldn’t be a problem.

He did note one situation, where Verizon’s facilities were situated very near the property line, with someone living little more than 20 feet away. In that circumstance, the company had included a noise suppression cover for the generator.

This would likely prove unnecessary in South Bethany, however, with homes set at some distance from the water tower, Bettenhausen said.

There was some discussion regarding where the hypothetical equipment shelter would be located, and Mayor Gary Jayne suggested they take a walk out to the site.

Bettenhausen suggested an east-west orientation, closer to the eastern property line. However, Council Member Bob Cestone said that would preclude any future use of the strip of town land between the proposed building and the property line (the ditch between town land and a trail known as Pine Run).

Cestone said the town might want to use that area for an access road at some point, and suggested a north-south orientation, close to the water tower, instead.

Since Artesian’s lease is strictly for the land under the tower, and this hypothetical project would involve additional lands, South Bethany would need to modify that lease and then work Verizon into the agreement if the town decided to move forward with the deal.

According to Bettenhausen, it would look like a 25-year lease from the town’s perspective. Since Verizon would be sinking a considerable investment ($1 million) into the new facilities, he said the various five-year options to renew the lease would be one-sided from Verizon’s direction. The lease would include rent escalators, linked to one or another agreed upon index.

Jayne asked Bettenhausen for a “pro forma,” or template, contract for review, before council made a decision to consider a more South Bethany-specific contract, and that’s how they left it.

In other business, Cestone reported Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s recent signature on a bill authorizing several charter changes. Someone who’s violated town code can now choose to admit guilt and receive a minimum fine (voluntary assessment).

People can still opt to handle those matters in the courts if they so choose, and even if they’ve decided to go with voluntary assessment, they can change their minds (and go through the courts) as long as they do so in a timely manner.

Cestone said the state had once again balked at town efforts to extend police jurisdiction onto Kent Avenue and the crosswalk on Route 1 (just north and south of the borders, respectively). He said he’d asked commission members to include a passage in the town’s Comprehensive Development Plan update, to the effect that South Bethany might want to annex those limited areas at some point, toward the goal of improved safety.

Finally, council returned to the matter of video games in excess of the permitted number, at Grotto Pizza, in the York Beach Mall. From South Bethany code: “No establishment shall provide for or offer more than two arcade games or machines, including but not limited to dynamo hockey, pinball, bowling, pool, speed racer, horse riding, speed bug and the like.”

Council members agreed two existing kiddie rides at the restaurant shouldn’t count toward that maximum number. However, regarding all other games, they voted unanimously (Council Member John Fields absent) that Grotto Pizza would have to choose their top two favorites and remove the rest.