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Cell tower could benefit Pioneer district

NORTHFIELD — A deal in the works could bring the Pioneer Valley Regional School District $2 million over 25 years.

The district has negotiated a deal for AT&T Wireless to build and use a 120-foot cellular phone tower on north side of the Pioneer Valley Regional School grounds.

The proposal calls for a $27,600 annual lease, with an initial period of five years, and four five-year renewals, maxing out at 25 years. The rate would increase each year to correspond with the Consumer Price Index, according to the lease.

AT&T had originally approached the district about building a tower, and the open bidding process brought several interested companies, according to district Superintendent Dayle Doiron. AT&T’s bid was highest, and other companies said the asking price was too high, said Doiron.

There is also room for three other wireless companies to lease space on the tower, estimated at $500,000 per carrier over the 25-year lease, for a total of $1.5 million in addition to AT&T’s rent, a potential $2.19 million.

Public safety and municipal radio equipment would be allowed rent-free, and AT&T would pay for its installation as long as it’s done during the tower’s construction. The company would also decide how much municipal and safety equipment to install.

In addition to the 120-foot monopole tower, AT&T would build a 12-by-20-foot equipment shelter with generator and 12 antennae for its own use. All would be enclosed in a 50-foot-square fence.

John Lepore, a former science teacher who recently authored Pioneer’s property management plan, reviewed the proposed location, and had no objections. His plans had proposed a solar-electric array for the site, but he said the array could be placed elsewhere.

Situated near Northfield’s borders with Bernardston and Gill, the tower could significantly improve AT&T’s signal in all three towns.

The School Committee voted unanimously to send the lease to AT&T for approval. If accepted, the company would have to secure the proper permits from the town of Northfield. Doiron said construction would be about 6 to 8 months off, and could take 6 months to complete.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 or @RecorderRain

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