The city of Gillette is beginning negotiations with telecommunications provider AT&T about a potential new cell tower.
AT&T approached the city in August of 2019 after researching the best location to expand wireless coverage in town. They identified city-owned land off Garner Lake Road near the wastewater treatment plant on the city's southeast edge.
City Utilities Director Mike Cole said the city has to make sure a new tower would follow ordinances on zoning and aesthetic requirements.
"We looked at the zoning out around the wastewater plant that's currently zoned agriculture, where they want to develop this cell tower. We're working in conjunction with our planning division to take a look at what the best zoning is for the area," he said.
The requirements for height and other elements depend on the land's zoning. Cole said potential new zoning could be industrial or light industrial.
Cole said Gillette is negotiating a long-term lease with AT&T that would bring in anywhere between $15,000 to $20,000 a year.
"The revenue from that lease would likely go into the city's general fund or would be used in the city's fiber fund. The fiber fund is what we used to pay for the expansion of the fiber optic network throughout the city," he said.
In his mind, Cole said the best option would be the city's fiber fund, since all the cell towers in Gillette are hooked up to the city's fiber network to assist with data transfers.
The city is also considering adding an annual increase to the lease amount to balance inflation.
Cole said most of the local cell towers were built and are operated by private telecommunications providers, which then lease antennas to cell service providers.
But according to the city's ordinance, AT&T building its own tower would still require it to have additional antenna space for future expansion.
"[That's] so we don't have one tower built exclusively for one company with one antenna. We try to build one tower then have the ability to put multiple antennas on it," Cole said.
He added there is no set timeline for negotiations.
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