Public Hearings Held on Pole Licensing and Communications

The Town Council held several public hearings at their meeting on Monday, March 5, including two on the current communications system used by the police and fire department and the new language concerning pole licensing.

The public hearing for the sale of communications easement to ATC Sequoia, LLC was presented by Doug Smith. Smith acknowledged that this public hearing was to approve the $520,000 (the proposed sale price) of a lease that was originally constructed by the town back in 2008 from the revenue from a cell tower. Currently in fiscal year 2018, the revenue stream from the cell tower generates just over $31,000 to the town of Londonderry according to Doug Smith.

Smith went on to say that lease does include perspective extensions to a five-year term (carried all the way into 2038), but the revenue generated from this cell tower is not guaranteed. The company that agrees to the lease, also reserves the right to terminate the lease at their discretion with sixty days’ notice.

When considering these factors, the town also looked for ways to help finance the town-wide communications project. There have been multiple companies interested in purchasing the revenue stream in a lump sum amount between the months of June and September of 2017.

Those amounts ranged from $395,000 to just over $400,000. In doing so, the town hoped to find a creative way to help minimize the cost for the taxpayers for the project. According to Smith, after a very competitive process, that involved three cell tower companies, the town was able to negotiate a final sales price in a lump sum of $520,000. This was brought forth as a public hearing, because this revenue is not anticipated in the FY 18 budget. It will be up the Town Council to accept that money. Chairman Tom Dolan put the issue into context for the public.

The community-wide communications system that will be helping the first responders will be funded in part by this particular sale of the cell tower as well as a withdrawal from the undesignated fund balance. By doing so, (if the voters approve) the town will be able to make the purchase of this new communications system without adding any tax impact to the voter.

The third public hearing that was conducted that night was for the purpose of considering amending existing pole licenses to include language regarding taxation. The report was given by Assistant Town Manager Lisa Drabik. Londonderry is one of many communities that is party to a lawsuit in which certain utilities, in Londonderry’s case Fairpoint, argue that our pole licenses (as they are currently worded) allow the town to tax their use of poles, but not tax their use of the rights of way on which the poles sit.

At the council’s Feb. 5 meeting, the Town Assessor presented a petition to amend licenses to the council upon the advice of the town attorney asking the Town Council to hold a public hearing on this issue. The purpose of the public hearing was to clarify the language, so that the town can properly tax the utilities use of both poles and rights of way.

Drabik also announced that plenty of notice was given to both the current license holders and the public.

A detailed notice, including the taxation language that was proposed to the council, was sent on Feb. 13 to the six current pole license holders in the certified mail.

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