When Anna Maria Island, Fla., sent out a request for proposal earlier this year to build a cell tower on city property, it was an example of the renewed interest by cities in hosting telecommunications facilities, Stacy Frank, principal at F&L Towers told AGL Bulletin.
“It is a new way of doing business for tower companies,” she said. “In the past, local jurisdictions were not inviting towers to be sited on these properties like they are today.”
The about face in Florida can be traced to a frail economy and the financial needs at the local government level.
“Our success [siting towers] in the Hillsborough school district has gotten some attention,” Frank said. “I am seeing revenue sharing that wasn’t there before, which mirrors what we did with the district.”
Ann Maria, a slice of land just off the Florida Gold Coast south of Tampa, received responses to its RFP from three tower companies: Ridan Industries, Vortex and F&L Towers. The tower companies offered a variety of different deals to the municipality, from a lump sum of $400,000 to a 50 percent revenue share of the carrier rents, and different combinations of the two.
“I don’t know if a lump sum is the preferred route for a municipality or not,” Frank said. “When the other two companies resubmitted, they matched the lump sum bid by F&L Towers.”
The competitive market of developing cell sites on municipal land is likely an opportunity reserved for smaller tower companies that can be aggressive with pricing, do their own legal work and, in general, can be more nimble than the majors.
But responding to the RFPs for cell site development can be a challenge for any company, requiring an extra commitment of time and energy by the cell tower developer, Frank said.
“The RFPs, sometimes, are too difficult to be worth responding to. It takes a lot of time to respond to an RFP properly,” she said. While it takes a lot of work and maneuvering through the gauntlet of government processes, Frank said it can be worth it.
Part of the challenge is that cities find themselves at cross-purposes, trying to appease the anti-cell tower constituents while encouraging cell site deployment on their lands, Frank said.
“At the same time that they are inviting tower companies to build on their property, they are instituting wireless ordinances that discourage cell site development,” she said.