County delays maintenance study of towers

EAGLE RIVER — While Keweenaw County’s communication towers have generated revenue, the county has lagged behind in maintaining them, a county staff member told the County Board last week.

The board’s response was to delay a decision to conduct analyses on the towers’ structural integrity.

“Part of what we have to understand,” said Ann Gasperich, zoning administrator, “is we’ve generated a considerable amount of revenue from this tower over the last 10 years that we’ve had it. We’ve not put money into it.”

The tower, she said, is a major source of revenue for the county, and needs to be treated as such.

“We need to maintain it, we need to take care of it, and we need to understand that it’s going to continue to be. Along with that, there are going to be expenses associated.”

The board was informed its three guide towers must receive analyses as required by state law. The combined cost for the analyses of the free-standing tower at the former Calumet Radar Station on Mt. Horace Greeley, the guide towers at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and the Sheriff’s Office will total $10,000, said Gasperich.

“If they determine that there are deficiencies, those will then need to be bid out and repairs made,” said Gasperich. “So, this is essentially speculation until we hire someone to go up there and do our conditional analysis.”

Board member Sandra Gayk expressed interest in learning how much revenue is generated from the rental of space on the towers, in comparison to the expense of having the analyses conducted.

Eric Hermanson, county treasurer, said he could provide the board with that information, though neither he or Gasperich knew the sum off-hand. Don Piche, County Board chairman, said AT&T had been paying $1,800 or $1,900 per month for years.

Gasperich suggested the standard in most businesses was reinvest 30 percent of their revenues back into maintenance.

“This is not 30 percent of our revenues,” she said.

When Piche said it is not known even where the tower originally came from, Gasperich suggested the government.

“We could have been donated from the Coast Guard,” she said, “because we received it from the National Park Service. In the Sheriff’s Department’s line of work, there is no chain of custody.”

The board voted to table the discussion for the time being, on Gasperich’s advice, because more information is being sought and gathered.

“It very well might be tabled until June,” she said.