Cell Tower Proposal to Implement Improvements at Houlihan/Sid Fay Field
Remarks from Mayor Brindle: September 10, 2022
I’d like to provide an update on an initiative which was first brought up in February 2021, which involves the exploration of placing a cell tower on Town property.
As you may recall, we originally issued an RFP for cellular providers to place a cell tower adjacent to Houlihan/Sid Fay fields based on a letter we received from AT&T at the time, expressing an interest in this placement.
We took the request seriously based on a number of factors, including the desire to address poor cellular reception on the southside but also because of our need to address the long-standing parking and pedestrian safety issues at Houlihan/Sid Fay field – the lack of adequate parking, a restroom, and ADA compliance at the facility. In return for allowing a party to install a cell tower, the Town would require the provider to pay for some of these necessary improvements – an innovative solution to solve these issues at no cost to taxpayers – in addition to annual lease payments for the use of the property.
In March 2021, at the recommendation of the Code Review and Property Committee, the Town issued an RFP to bring on a consultant, at no cost, to advise the Council on negotiations with interested wireless providers – which ultimately resulted in a bid for lease of a communications facility issued in July-August 2021 to cellular providers and tower operators, which yielded no bid responses.
Recently, we have received some carrier feedback that placement of a cell tower at the Conservation Center on Lamberts Mill Road would better close the coverage gap that exists in a large portion of the southwest area of Westfield. In working with our consultant, we have issued a new bid for this location with a required $100,000 donation to our Parks Improvement Fund, with recurring annual lease payments, still allowing the Town to fund the necessary improvements at Sid Fay/Houlihan through this cell tower license.
Both wireless carriers and residents alike have repeatedly cited a need to improve cellular service in the southwest section of town, specifically Lamberts Mill to Willow Grove Road and Clifton Street, inclusive of Tamaques and Jefferson Elementary Schools. These areas have been identified as having wireless service gaps, specifically in the interiors of homes and buildings – a concern I hear increasingly from residents. Additionally, boosting coverage in this area would improve the reliability of our emergency response network for our first responders.
As I mentioned when we first explored this issue, it’s important to consider that if we don’t approve a location on Town property, the providers have the option to go to an alternate site on private property, either in Westfield or in close proximity in a neighboring town. This would improve the coverage BUT eliminate Westfield from being able to reap any of the investment or revenue benefits.
We understand there are many sensitivities when it comes to cell towers. However, knowing that a cell tower in the vicinity may be inevitable, it is prudent to take a proactive and engaged approach to ensure that we maximize the benefit to Westfield taxpayers AND maintain controls in the process. In this case, we have the opportunity to resolve a long-standing safety issue at Houlihan/Sid Fay field and additionally reap the benefit of having someone else cover the costs of these improvements.
We will provide updates after any cellular provider responses are received from the bid in October, at which time the issue would come before the Council with the opportunity for public input. No contract will be awarded unless it is recommended by the consultant, passes muster with our Town governing body, and adequately addresses questions or concerns from our residents.
In the meantime, for additional information, please refer to the FAQs, which can be found in the link below.