Bonanza From Cell Towers In Parks A Tall Tale
By Ashley Hopkins
Miami-Dade’s plan to send communication towers skyward in parks to supplement the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department’s yearly budget by up to $2.64 million is dead in the water due to a lack of interest — forcing county officials back to the drawing board.
The county plans to re-release the solicitation in about two months.
To prop up park services during a difficult budget year, last June the county commission voted to allow communications companies to install and operate cellular towers in county parks.
As each tower was expected to bring the county $80,000 to $120,000 yearly, Jack Kardys, county park and recreation director, had said in June that allowing communications companies to install and operate cellular towers in parks would help the department supplement its budget. The towers, targeted for up to 22 parks across the county, were expected to bring in up to $2.64 million a year.
But Laura Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, said that while the county issued a solicitation for the towers in January, no one submitted a proposal.
The county is meeting with tower developers to modify the solicitation, which it plans to re-release in about two months, Ms. Phillips said.
When the commission approved the item last year, Commissioner Xavier Suarez, said he was concerned that the county wouldn’t get the biggest bang for its buck. While the commission directed the administration to find communications companies willing to install and operate the towers through competitive solicitation, he questioned why cellular companies would be willing to pay market prices to set up shop in parks.
Mr. Suarez was also concerned that the towers would detract from the parks’ natural beauty. While the commission’s Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee amended the item to require that all towers remain "aesthetically acceptable" and not "adversely impact natural resources or park facilities," Mr. Suarez remained unconvinced.
"Why in our parks?" he said. "I don’t understand."
Hearing Mr. Suarez’s concerns, the plan’s sponsor, Chairman Joe Martinez, said at the time he pushed the legislation in an effort to keep parks open during a difficult budget year, adding that he didn’t "care if [the towers] look like a tree or not."