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Agreement on cell tower approved

A proposal by a Lancaster developer to do a cellular lease conversion has won the approval of the East Aurora Village Board, not long after village officials had criticized it.

Initially, the board voted, 5-2, to reject the offer of Bella Vista's Joseph Cipolla through an entity known as Unison Site Management, with only Mayor David DiPietro and Trustee Patrick McDonnell backing the plan.

DiPietro immediately accused the board of turning down the proposal for political reasons and apologized to Cipolla.

Minutes later, the board reversed itself and approved it in a 6-1 vote. Trustee Heidi Potenza, who is running against DiPietro in next month's village election, voted against the offer.

The board had hesitated because of concerns over whether it could still question specifics when a final contract is negotiated with Cipolla, who has promised the village a $270,000 upfront payment for a master cell tower agreement. The lump-sum payment would result from combining the Sprint lease and a new lease with T-Mobile, another carrier. After assurances that the board could still raise questions, trustees voted in favor of the proposal on the second vote.

The agreement allows Cipolla to take over the village's current lease with Sprint on its Village Hall tower that brings in $1,400 a month. Cipolla has indicated it would take the village at least 11 years through monthly leases with cell carriers to realize what it could receive from his investors in the upfront payment.

Potenza balked at the agreement, saying Cipolla's fee structure is not clear or upfront. She had wanted the board to seek formal proposals for a cell conversion agreement.

Cipolla initially pitched a $255,000 buyout to the board a couple of weeks ago, but the board then learned it would only be a $230,000 upfront payment once a brokerage commission was factored in.

The village then asked Rick Ganci of Capital Markets Advisors of Orchard Park to informally solicit bids from other companies to compare them with Cipolla's offer. He reported back that Cipolla's offer seemed to be the best one for now.

In the meantime, Cipolla upped the offer to $270,000. But that figure does not include consulting fees, which again were not spelled out specifically to the board last week. They were said to be "subject to negotiation."

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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