School district ends all talks with AT&T

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 11:13 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 11:15 a.m. CDT

For the second consecutive meeting, AT&T requested the Newton Community School District Board of Education delay its vote on constructing a new cell phone tower on district land.

At the January meeting, the district obliged with the request, but not without visible frustration from some of its members. This time, however, the district chose a different path.

“I don’t know how the board feels, but I’ll be honest with you— I know its $12,000— but it seems like every time we turn around we’re being asked by the originators of this contract for something else,” Superintendent Bob Callaghan said.

“As an old sage of mine used to say, ‘They are asking for a lot of sugar for a dime.’” Callaghan said.

The board agreed with Callaghan’s assessment on the matter and voted to have talks with AT&T ceased. Had the deal had ever come together, AT&T would have paid the district $12,000 annually for a period of 25 years and if it rented out space to another provider, the district would have received 25 percent of that amount.’

“This has been going on for three years,” Board president Andy Elbert explained to board member Travis Padget during this discussion.

Padget also asked was there way the district could potentially try and find another tenant for the land and strike a better deal.

“Everybody else has towers close enough that they don’t have to worry about it,” board member Nat Clark said.

Callaghan added that it would require around $20,000 to have a firm research the market value of the land for use as a cell phone tower. He also cautioned against the length of the deal.

“This contract could potentially be 25 years in length, and we would not have any opportunity during those 25 years to remove ourselves from the contract,” Callaghan said.

In other business:

• The board postponed a vote on adopting board operating procedures.

• The board approved paying substitute nurses, who are registered nurses, the same daily pay rate as substitute teachers.

• The classified seniority report was approved.

• Elbert and board vice-presidents Sheri Benson’s “Kids First” project was approved. All district staff may be nominated for situations where they put student first and from the pool of nominees, a winner will drawn.

• The board agreed to have handouts explaining the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy election, set for April 1, at the community forums taking place on Thursday at Newton Senior High School and next Tuesday at Berg Middle School.

• Both forums will feature free food and educate parents on the differences between the 180 day and 1,080 school calendar.

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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