Cell phone towers offer new cash for schools

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Here’s one way for a cash-strapped district to make a little extra pocket change: Allow a cell phone company to erect cell phone towers at your schools.

The Anoka-Hennepin school board has approved three such towers, which would be operated by the T-Mobile communications company. The 100-foot-tall towers could be put up as early as a year from now if T-Mobile gets approval from the three communities in which the towers would be located.

If the plan passes muster, payoff for the district will be at least $1,500 a month per site. It could be more if T-Mobile subleases its tower space to another company, said Chuck Holden, Anoka-Hennepin director of administrative services.
Other school districts have been renting out cell phone tower space for up to a decade. Paul Harrington, whose St. Paul-based Carlson & Harrington consulting firm negotiated the T-Mobile agreement with Anoka-Hennepin, said he has negotiated tower agreements with such districts as Osseo, White Bear Lake, Hastings and Stillwater.

“We have a number of agreements in place with schools,” he said. “They view it as a revenue opportunity.” Schools, with their spacious grounds, are often good sites for such towers because there are often zoning restrictions requiring them to be specified distances from homes, Harrington said.

The new Champlin Park tower would also be attached to a football field light pole. In the case of the other two schools, the towers would be freestanding structures behind the schools.

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