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Amherst negotiating leases for two new cell towers on town property

Amherst officials are negotiating leases for two new cell towers on town property with a company working on behalf of Blue Wireless.

Upstate Tower Communications wants to build one cell tower at the town's Highway Department, on North Forest Road, and a second tower at the town's Wastewater Treatment Plant, on Tonawanda Creek Road.

The tower at the Highway Department would replace two antennas on the grounds that provide communication services for police, highway and other town employees, said Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein. The cell tower there would host the communication equipment for the town.

The second tower, at the treatment plant, could someday host town communication equipment that now is located on an older cell tower owned by Crown Castle at the site, but that's not a certainty, said Jeff Burroughs, the town engineer.

Both cell towers are new for Upstate Tower and for Blue Wireless in Amherst. Upstate Tower seeks to build a network of five or six towers in the town, but the Town Board last year rejected the company's other proposed locations and so far only has accepted the two proposed towers that are now the subject of the lease negotiations, said Jeffery D. Palumbo, the attorney representing Upstate Towers.

The company is seeking approval for new locations in the town, Palumbo said.

Amherst welcomes the tower eyed for 1042 N. Forest Road because it would allow the town to replace communications antennas on top of the highway garage and at the town's Engineering Department, which also is located there. The antenna on top of the garage is a point of concern, Weinstein said, because it has drawn several lightning strikes in recent years. Also, the cell tower will sit farther than the antennas from the residential communities that surround the Highway Department and Engineering Department buildings, Weinstein said.

The older cell tower at the wastewater treatment plant, 455 Tonawanda Creek Road, would remain after the new cell tower is installed.

Senior Deputy Town Attorney Joanne Schultz is negotiating with Palumbo on the leases. The town would receive an upfront fee and rental payments, would have the right to locate town communication equipment on the towers and would see Upstate Tower agree to take down the towers whenever the company deems them obsolete, town officials and Palumbo said. The town also likely would receive extra payment if another cell company co-locates on the tower.

Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa said the sides have been talking for at least six months and are hung up on the final price of the agreement and some other issues. "The bottom line is always about dollars," he said.

Palumbo said he thinks negotiations could be finished within two to three weeks.

Upstate Towers would need a variance from the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals for the tower at the Highway Department, which is planned for 135 feet tall.

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