February 13

Chelsea delays decision on cell tower lease sale

The Chelsea Board of Selectmen held a public hearing Wednesday night to hear from residents about whether they think the town should sell the rights to its cell tower lease for a lump sum.

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The Chelsea Board of Selectmen didn’t make a decision at its meeting Wednesday night on whether to sell the rights to its cell tower lease.

The board will likely decide at its next meeting Feb. 26 whether to pursue selling the rights, Town Manager Scott Tilton said.

About five residents attended the public hearing on the issue held Wednesday at Chelsea Elementary School, according to Tilton. He said there was mostly opposition to the idea from residents.

Two out-of-state companies have expressed interest in buying an easement for the leasing rights to a cell tower on town property along Eastern Avenue.

There are about 15 years remaining on a 25-year-lease with U.S. Cellular for the cell tower, according to Tilton. The town earns $758 a month for leasing the tower, but it could sell the leasing rights to another company for a one-time sum of more than $100,000, Tilton said. The selectmen rejected a previous offer to sell the leasing rights last year, he said, but the offer was about $30,000 lower.

If the town sold the lease to a private company, the company would collect all income from leasing the property for 40 years. The lease with U.S. Cellular expires in 2028, but the company can renew the lease in five-year increments, Tilton said.

The town could earn more than $360,000 over the next 40 years if U.S. Cellular renews its lease for the cell tower.

Before the meeting, Tilton said he is on the fence about the issue. He said it probably doesn’t make sense to sell the rights if the town didn’t have an immediate need for the money.

The selectmen will hold budget workshop on Wednesday, so they’ll likely discuss then whether there’s a need for the money immediately rather than over the long term, Tilton said.

He said that hasn’t been decided or discussed yet.

“I think that’s probably why they’re a little bit hesitant,” Tilton said. “We don’t know what to do.”

Paul Koenig — 207-621-5663 pkoenig@centralmaine.com Twitter: @paul_koenig
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