POINT PLEASANT BEACH — The borough will allow AT&T to keep up its portable cell tower in the Little Silver Lake parking lot this winter because of the impending decommission of the Bay Head Water Tower.
The change comes as a way for the borough to ensure residents keep the same coverage in case of emergencies or other situations.
AT&T’s portable tower sits in the Little Silver parking lot during the summer months to give users at the beach better coverage during the busy season.
The borough has a lease with the carrier allowing the tower in the lot for up to six months, either April to September or May to October.
But with New Jersey American Water set to decommission its tower in Bay Head in February, the council approved a change just for this year, allowing the portable tower to remain in the borough.
“At this junction, AT&T reached out to us because they have cell tower equipment on Bay Head water tower, which is owned by New Jersey American Water,” said Borough Administrator Christine Riehl. “They are tearing it down and told all the carriers to remove their equipment.”
Ms. Riehl said AT&T reached out to the borough and said there might be a lax in coverage within the borough after the tower is removed. AT&T representatives requested permission to leave the Little Silver Lake portable tower up through the winter until they can find a better solution in the future.
AT&T will pay the borough $3,571 a month to lease the space.
Borough officials say they believe it would only be one year the carrier would need the space through the winter months.
“Unless the COVID restrictions don’t lift or the water tank in Bay Head is not ready in time, it could be as much as this year and next year,” said Ms. Riehl.
The council decided to approve the motion only for this winter, saying they will revisit the issue if it comes up next year.
“With coronavirus, we’ve had a lot of expenses, parking revenue was a little bit down,” said Mayor Paul Kanitra.
“The flip side of this is that people hate the cell phone tower in the Little Silver Lake parking lot. It’s an eyesore, it’s a big white monolith that just kind of sticks into the sky,” said the mayor.
The council passed the motion, but asked the carrier, in an effort to make it look a little better, to place an American flag on top of the tower. The provider approved a five-by-eight foot flag as long as it does not interfere with equipment.
With these additional months of leasing, the borough will pull in an additional $21,000 in revenue.
“In my opinion, I think $21,000 to leave it up one offseason without any assurances or anything in a contract saying we’re committing to anything more, combined with the fact that there is a very real chance that area of town could have reduced cell phone coverage this winter… I think it’s kind of a no-brainer,” said the mayor.
Councilman Bob Santanello agreed. He said the reason the borough agreed to put it up a number of years ago was for the safety of residents and visitors.
“God forbid someone has a medical emergency and they can’t reach 911,” said Mr. Santanello, “That’s a scary thought.”
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